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Howard Govt Indigenous education bungling.

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Senator Kim Carr

Labor Senator for Victoria Shadow Minister for Public Administration and Open Government, Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation and the Arts 27/04/05

Howard Govt Indigenous education bungling

Education Minister Brendan Nelson continues to turn a blind eye to the bungled implementation of his new Indigenous education funding arrangements. But today Labor will call the Government to account at a Senate Committee hearing in Melbourne.

Dr Nelson's new plan was supposed help remote area schools. Instead many remote schools have missed out on funding for successful programs to keep kids in school and improve their literacy and numeracy.

Four months into the year other schools still don't know what they will get for 2005.

Another aim of the new program was to encourage parental involvement. Instead, flourishing Indigenous parent committees have been disbanded, leaving Indigenous parents disillusioned and disengaged.

Dr Nelson has gone strangely silent since he trumpeted the passage of Indigenous education funding legislation in December last year. Apart for the one small reference in the Dame Pattie Menzies Oration last week, Dr Nelson has barely mentioned the new arrangements in public.

Dr Nelson has also failed to respond to the Senate Committee's interim report, which called for the urgent introduction of transitional arrangements for 2005. This would have provided some certainty for schools and enabled better implementation of the new arrangements.

While this Minister does nothing about the bureaucratic bungling of his own Department's programs, he expects State and Territory Governments to jump through any hoop he chooses to set.

The Western Australian Government, in its submission to the Senate inquiry, said that the level of discretion Dr Nelson holds over performance targets and sanctions "enable[s] the Commonwealth to directly intervene in the State based

operating or program delivery agency and conceivably even to abrogate the Agreement …".

During its inquiry, the Senate Committee has repeatedly been told that new application and reporting requirements have increased red tape for schools and States. So far, there is no evidence that this will lead to better outcomes for Indigenous students.

I look forward to hearing what the DEST officials have to say about this long list of concerns.

What: Senate Inquiry into Indigenous Education Funding Arrangements

Where: Melbourne Town Hall, Portico Room, Level 2

When: 1pm

Further information: Kim Carr 0419 563 922, Catriona Jackson, 0417 142 238.