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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 5851

Ms HALL (12:41 PM) —I believe that the opportunity to access education is possibly the most important thing that any government can give to Australia as a nation. Education is about our future. The fact that not all young people in Australia access education at a level that will prepare them for life is, I think, one of the very sad features of our society. I believe that the Rudd government has really concentrated on trying to make education freely accessible for all young Australians and, at the same time, make it relevant for young Australians.

Catherine is a young person who has just finished university and has been working in my office this week in Canberra. I asked her to identify a topic that she thought was of vital importance, something that she felt passionate about. The topic that she chose was education. It is coincidental that last night in the chamber I spoke about the importance of education, the importance of Building the Education Revolution, the importance of trade training schools and the importance of enabling young people to obtain the education they need.

I would like to share with the House some of the words that Catherine has written for me. It is always very good to be able to look at these issues from somebody else’s perspective and not just from mine, as a member of parliament. I am somebody who has been here a while now, somebody who connects with their electorate very strongly and visits schools on a regular basis. But, still, I am somebody who looks at education from the perspective of having been in this job for quite a while. I find that Catherine’s thoughts coincide with mine very closely. She is not a person who has been involved in the Labor Party or anything like that. Here are the words she has written for me.

I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the importance of vocational training experiences for young people. In my electorate, school retention rates in some areas are very low. Schools recognise this trend and have been working on the development of vocational training opportunities, which is an area of importance identified and expressed by students, as was reiterated at a school leaders working luncheon that I have mentioned previously. I had a working lunch with the leaders from the schools in my electorate.

In the Hunter and the Central Coast—they are the areas that the Shortland electorate covers—the retention rate, as recorded by the Department of Education and Training, for years 7 to 10 is 91 per cent. However, this drops dramatically for years 10 to 12, where the apparent retention rate in 2009 was 58.3 per cent, which is lower than other regions in New South Wales. I might add that the rate for the Central Coast is the lowest in Australia.

In recognition of these trends, there is a growing focus by schools in my electorate on the provision of vocational and more hands-on, practical skills development. Recognising the different skills areas and interests of young people and encouraging development in these areas builds confidence—assuring them that they can make a positive contribution to Australia’s workforce—and encourages continuation of studies in senior high school. In my electorate on the Central Coast, Gorokan High School, Lake Munmorah High School and Northlakes High School will be receiving funding towards facilities to better enable more vocational training. The measures include upgrading hospitality, engineering and construction facilities.

The importance of giving young people the opportunity to gain practical experience that they can apply in the workforce cannot be undervalued. Catherine really believes that the most important issue for government to address is education and ensuring that young people who attend our schools have the skills that they need for the future. (Time expired)