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Government misleads on Indigenous issues.

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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

19April 05

Government misleads on Indigenous issues Nelson talks rubbish while schools miss out

Most schools around Australia are well into their second term and many still don't know how much funding they will get under new Indigenous education funding arrangements.

Others know that they have missed out on funding for successful programs like homework centres, tutors, excursions, school uniforms and breakfasts.

Brendan Nelson, however, seems oblivious. Yesterday, Dr Nelson delivered the Dame Pattie Menzies Oration. During his speech, he said:

"In my portfolio we are shifting indigenous specific educational funding out of cities into remote areas, unashamedly dropping programmes that don't work for ones that do …"

Only yesterday, Dr Nelson was sent a fax from Ngukurr, a remote Aboriginal school in Arnhem Land. The Ngukurr teachers told Dr Nelson that their school's "concept plans" for a number of highly successful projects had been rejected by his department.

They are particularly concerned that the school will no longer be able to run excursions, including "trips to country", which have proven a key to improving attendance and retention at the school. Literacy and numeracy cannot be improved if kids aren't at school.

Unfortunately, this is a familiar story. The new arrangements are having a devastating impact on remote schools. Some examples include:

• funding for the Wadeye school, so proudly announced by the Prime Minister, cut to around half the level it received under the previous program;

• the number of tutors at Moulden Park school in Darwin down from 12 to 5, effectively punishing the school for its past success in helping students achieve basic literacy and numeracy standards; and

• funding for Maningrida school in Arnhem Land down from $180,000 to $34,000 for 2005, meaning the abolition of key sports programs and excursions.

Dr Nelson also perpetuated the myth that the Mulan Shared Responsibility Agreement (SRA) has resulted in the elimination of trachoma in the community.

The reality is that the Mulan community had been addressing this problem for 18 months before the Government got involved. By November last year, the rate had fallen from over 70% to around 16%.

The Mulan SRA was only signed last month. It has proven not only paternalistic, but also unnecessary.

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