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Thursday, 25 May 1989
Page: 2723


Senator TEAGUE(4.38) —I wish to refer, as does, I understand, Senator Colston, to the Government's response to the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Education of Gifted and Talented Children. Senator Colston was Chairman of that Committee and I was Deputy Chairman. We are certainly proud of the report that we have brought before the Senate about the needs of gifted and talented children throughout Australia. However difficult it may be to define our terms precisely, we have done so in the report, and the Government make a sympathetic response to those definitions.

Over the last 15 years in Australia, particularly through the activities of parents and teachers of gifted and talented children-and, I might say, a minority activity on the part of teachers without the full blessing of their employing departments and so on-there has been a genuine and positive development in the techniques for identifying gifted and talented children and in the formulation of educational programs that will help those children rise to their full potential. This movement in Australia-not officially recognised, not given sufficient resources and not fully welcomed by the mainstream teaching organisations in many States-led to this Senate inquiry. The good news in the Government's response is that it has responded as positively as it possibly can to everything that we set out in that Committee report. The Government's response states:

The Select Committee, which tabled its report on 18 May 1988,-

that is, a year ago-

is to be commended for its efforts.

The Government tries to own our own conclusions by looking back over the 1970s and 1980s and, in reference to the Hawke period, the Fraser period and even the Whitlam period, tries to identify government actions that have built a foundation for the good things which we are now commending the Government to pursue further. The response continues:

The Government considers that its original objective of fostering and stimulating activity, debate and interest in the needs of gifted and talented children has been achieved.

Whilst that is a little self-congratulatory on the Government's part, and I believe it is overcongratulatory looking over the last 20 years, nevertheless it is healthy to see that the Government does not want to own up to the fact that it has been doing positive things. The response continues:

The Government supports the general direction of the Report's recommendations, in particular those dealing with the professional development of teachers, the development of appropriate teaching and learning materials, and expanding the availability of relevant curriculum information.

The Government's response goes on to mention how this report and our recommendations were referred to the Australian Education Council, which of course comprises the Ministers for education in each of the States and Territories. It was referred to those other Ministers with the full commendation of the Commonwealth Government. I welcome all of that. We had some nine recommendations. The Government acknowledges, as we did, that the main initiative in school programs lies with the States but, to the extent that it is appropriate for the Commonwealth to take the initiative, it is responding.

I welcome all of those elements. I note that there is not any decision here to find additional moneys, to give additional resources to set up a new Commonwealth program that might even, after an initial period, be taken over by the States. That would have been welcomed. Whilst I note the Government's decision not to do that, I commend the Government for its full approval of our report.