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Friday, 29 November 1985
Page: 2597

Senator DEVLIN —Is the Minister for Education aware of the article in the Courier-Mail of 28 November 1985 which refers to the target set by the Government for 1,000 Aboriginal teachers by 1990? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the progress in meeting this target?

Senator RYAN —I am aware that the Blanchard Committee-the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aboriginal Education-which has just reported, has endorsed the already established strategy of the Government of aiming to have 1,000 trained Aboriginal teachers in the schools by 1990. That was a policy to which we were committed before we came into office. Every year since we have been in government, we have made available 100 special fellowships for mature age Aboriginal people to undertake teacher training. That means that under that program alone there would be about 300 trainees in the system. As well, I think from memory there are about 800 higher education Aboriginal students this year, many of whom are undertaking courses which would prepare them for teaching.

Senator Devlin has raised a very important policy issue. I know there are honourable senators from both sides of the Senate who are concerned to see that the dreadful disadvantages suffered by Aboriginal students in education are overcome. They recognise that a very important element in improving outcomes for Aboriginal children is to have Aboriginal teachers in the classroom. The role modelling effect on young Aboriginal students of Aboriginal teachers in the classroom is very important and very inspirational. It is also a fact that the cultural sympathy that Aboriginal teachers are able to have with their Aboriginal students is very much stronger and more natural than efforts non-Aboriginal teachers make, although I am aware that many of them are very committed. So it is a very important program.

I must say that I am very pleased to see that the Blanchard Committee has endorsed the strategy we have been pursuing. Whether we will achieve the target of 1,000 teachers by 1990 cannot be guaranteed at this stage, although we are on target with the 300 trainees who have come in under the special fellowships and the other students. One of the features of the development of Aboriginal people in Australia is that many Aboriginals who have been trained to teach have very quickly found themselves poached, one might say, to senior administrative or policy positions within Commonwealth and State bureaucracies. Many of my Aboriginal advisers are people who started off as classroom teachers but were very quickly taken into other areas. I know that that is also true of Aboriginal officers in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. So there is a very high demand for Aboriginal trained teachers not only in the classroom but also in a whole range of policy areas designed for the advancement of Aboriginal people.

I certainly hope that we will be on target with our 1,000 trained Aboriginal teachers. Even more than that, I hope that by 1990, because we are able to achieve this, and by using other measures, we will have achieved greatly improved outcomes in education for Aboriginal students.