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Thursday, 13 February 2020
Page: 94


Mrs McINTOSH (Lindsay) (11:43): When Minister Wyatt came to my electorate of Lindsay last year, we announced funding to the Nepean Community and Neighbourhood Services, and Community Junction Incorporated to help improve school attendance and keep Indigenous students engaged throughout their education journey. 'Helping children get to school ready to learn and receive a quality education. We must partner with people on the ground to achieve these outcomes.' Those were the words of Minister Wyatt. The Closing the gap report shows just how important those words still are today. We all want to close the gap. This year, Indigenous Australians won't be told how to close the gap; they will tell us. Working with people on the ground in my community of Lindsay, I know they want nothing more than being able to have their voice heard on issues that impact them.

Indigenous expertise at the very centre of decision-making offers the opportunity to set, implement and monitor the Closing the Gap process. As the Prime Minister said, the Closing the Gap speeches over the last decade have portrayed a tale of good intentions—indeed, good faith—but the results are just not good enough. The top-down government approach to closing the gap is changing, giving Indigenous Australians the capacity to drive the conversation and the agency to carry it out. The Closing the gap report shows just how much work we have ahead of us. But I very much believe we need to do as the Prime Minister does and not fall into this deficit mindset. Two points in particular fill me with hope for the future, and they are education and jobs.

In March last year, I met with kids and families at the Cranebrook Breakfast Club, which is hosted by Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services. It enables kids to have a good meal before they head off to school in the morning. Most importantly, it increases the attendance rate of the kids who go there before school. I was so pleased to make one of my election commitments a school bus to pick up kids and take them to the Breakfast Club and then to school, and I couldn't wait to see that new bus in action. I know it's really helping that neighbourhood centre. They've told me that the vehicle means that they've had double the number of students being picked up and dropped off each day. These are some of the most vulnerable students in our community, and they have enormous potential.

There are students like Rhys, a young Indigenous student from Cranebrook High School, who I first met at the neighbourhood centre where his mum worked. She told me that he would one day like to study law, and I know he is off to university now and has the best and brightest future ahead of him. I know his mum is rightly very proud of his successes. Investing in programs and policies to support students like Rhys gives them the opportunity to pursue their education and succeed.

Education from the first day of preschool right through to the last day of year 12 is a tool that empowers people to start their journey. It sets up our young people's future and enables them to take control. When we get more kids into preschool and out with a year 12 qualification and then onto university and other studies, fulfilling their passions and interests further, we're witnessing the lifelong opportunity of education, which is the best pathway to a job.

In 2019, 86.4 per cent of Indigenous four-year-olds were enrolled in childhood education compared to 91.3 per cent of non-Indigenous children. The target of reaching 95 per cent of all Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled by 2025 is on track, as the Prime Minister said. Between 2016 and 2018, the proportion of Indigenous children enrolled in early childhood education increased by almost 10 per cent. Early education is the foundation of this pathway. When this pathway leads to year 12 qualifications, we see more and more opportunities.

Between 2008 and 2018-19, the proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 20 to 24 attaining year 12 qualifications or equivalents increased by 21 per cent. Indigenous Australians aged between 18 and 29 with a year 12 qualification are between 1.5 and three times more likely to gain employment. For those who go onto university and complete a Bachelor's degree, 2016 data shows that there was effectively no gap between the employment rate of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

In my electorate of Lindsay, the link between a good education and the future could not be any clearer. I am working really hard to establish a network that connects emerging local industry and our small business community with local schools—schools like the ones that Rhys and students from our Cranebrook Breakfast Club go to—to make sure that they're ready for the jobs of the future. I will continue to work with our local community organisations—like the Breakfast Club, Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services and Community Junction—to ensure we are doing everything we can to support our local students.

It's no coincidence that the two Closing the Gap targets that are on track are education and jobs, because they go hand in hand. It all starts with education. It is a fundamental building block in life. We must work to break down the barriers of entry to education that Indigenous Australians face from a young age. With increased Indigenous involvement in decision-making, we are reshaping the way Indigenous Australians can set their own targets and prepare their own journey with their own goals for their own future.

When Minister Wyatt stood with me and my local Aboriginal community in Cranebrook, I committed to them that I would listen. I look forward to continuing to do this. I want everyone in our community to have the opportunity to achieve their aspirations, no more so than amongst our young Aboriginal children.