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Address for the official opening of the Naga, Yimba Gurrgan Library and Technology Centre, St Brendan's College, Yeppoon, Queensland.

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Address for the Official Opening of the Naga, Yimba Gurrgan Library and Technology Centre St Brendan's College Yeppoon

Yeppoon, Queensland, 15 June, 2003

Brother Luke Quinn, Father Bryan Hanifin, Cr Bill Ludwig from the Livingstone Shire Council, the Mayor there, members of the School Board; Brother Steve Grundy, the Principal of this very fine College; other members of the Christian Brothers community; representatives of the traditional people; prefects and students, parents, and if I've missed anyone, then other distinguished guests.

My congratulations to all of those responsible for this very significant and useful extension to what is Australia's largest country-based boarding school, which is dedicated to providing a quality Catholic education. It's a real pleasure for me to be here, representing the Prime Minister, John Howard, and the Education Minister, Dr Brendan Nelson, at the official opening of these buildings this morning.

The Commonwealth Government is delighted to have contributed some $600,000 towards the cost of this library and technology centre, which comprises of, I understand, three general learning areas, an administration area, and the refurbishment as well, of the manual arts block.

This total project is worth something like $1.2 million, of which the school itself has contributed some $500,000, and with the Federal Government's $600,000, and some contribution from the State Government, the money has achieved the great outcome we see before us today.

This particular extension is, I understand, part of an on-going development partnership, if I can call it that, between St Brendan's and the Commonwealth Government. A few years ago, a refurbishment or building of the science laboratory occurred at the cost of something like $430,000 and, I understand, there are plans afoot, if not already in progress, for another $1.14 million to be spent on this school towards the end of this year, with the Commonwealth and the School sharing the costs.

These outstanding facilities will help ensure that all of the students here are encouraged to realise their potential and to attain their goals, and they do actually provide the school with greater scope to meet the demands of a 21st century education.

The Christian Brothers have a very well-deserved reputation for providing a quality, Christian, caring environment, equipping young men for a positive, rewarding and useful role in the Australian adult society in the near future.

This learning centre is built upon some of the core values of this school, which include respect for the dignity of the person by creating an environment that caters for all learners and respects individual differences and choices. The school also has the goals of nurturing of the right relationships, allowing students to develop a strong sense of self-esteem, community, leadership, service and loyalty to one another. It also has a clear commitment to the poor and the marginalised.

It has aspirations towards excellence in teaching and learning, and it promotes a curriculum honouring the common good within the Christian community, and also strives towards the personal formation in the light of the gospels and Christian values allowing students to develop spirituality, faith and self-respect, with a high regard for cultural and religious differences.

It also has the goal of nurturing partnerships with families. And indeed, the parents of the students of St Brendan's College, really do deserve a special mention. I know of their involvement, and I know the school very much appreciates the work of the parents, and that it's valued by staff and students alike. Indeed the school's very great success would not have been possible without the commitment and sacrifice that the parents have demonstrated.

Ladies and gentleman, and students, I have to tell you that, over many years as a politician, I travel throughout western and central Queensland, as well as many other parts of this great land, and I know just how many men have been through this very fine educational establishment. The Christian

Brothers have done a tremendous job in establishing this college and providing boarding facilities here since the 1940s for boys from throughout Queensland.

I'm delighted, as I said, that the Commonwealth Government is a major funder of schooling in Australia. This year alone, we've committed to spending some $6.5 billion for schools and we do this to ensure that everyone has a good education, that's as broad as possible. It's important to have the opportunity of learning for your future and also, to learn to equip you to be model citizens of Australia.

As a parliamentarian, I have to say that it's important for students and young people to understand Australia's very rich democratic history.

Over the 19th century, you might recall, Australia was made up of colonies, but these colonies won worldwide recognition for pioneering democratic reforms such as the secret ballot. It doesn't seem very unusual these days, but it was unusual in those days, and in fact Australia was the first country to be involved in the secret ballot. At the time, it was known as the 'Australian Ballot'. The enthusiasm of hundreds and thousands of Australians a hundred years ago brought about the Federation of the Commonwealth of Australia. People back in those times attended mass meetings and delegations and conventions, and ultimately, they voted in a popular referendum.

And this is the way we do things in Australia of course, we talk them through. And the ability to work things out is one of the reasons why

Australia has been able to take in people from more than 140 nations and to produce a united country of very great harmony and cohesion. Over Australia's history, people from many backgrounds and cultures have joined together to play a role in our national development. They have been at the heart of building a strong and robust economy, contributing new ideas and technologies in the areas of medicine, science, business and education.

So, the Commonwealth Government is very keen to ensure that our rich history and the operations of Australian democracy are known, and we do this by providing some $32 million over several years for a program called 'Discovering Democracy'.

I'm conscious that many of you from this school are from country areas of our State. We try to help those in country areas who don't quite have the same opportunity as students in city areas and we do this with programmes like the Assistance to Isolated Children. That's a very good scheme that does help with educational needs in country areas as does our Country Areas Program.

I do just briefly, want to encourage those of you at the school to look to the future and to the career that you will take on, which will give you a useful and productive and satisfying life, and to the contribution you can make to Australian society. And there are many ways you can look to the future through vocational education, through TAFE, through various learning schemes and through our universities. We are very keen as a Government to ensure that children do have the opportunity of going on to universities.

We've actually committed another $1.5 billion over the next five years to higher education. And by the year 2009, once we've gone through this reform phase, there will be an extra $870 million per year spent by the Commonwealth Government on higher education. That's a very significant increase over this ten-year period.

Ladies and gentlemen, can I again thank you for inviting me to be part of this very significant opening? It's a delight to see what I can of the library so far, and I'm looking forward very much to having a look inside, and seeing the good work that's been done.

Can I again congratulate the school board, the builders, and if I might say, the architect, Tony Madden? I'm glad that he did the design and architectural work rather than you Mr Grundy, no offence to you! But congratulations to Tony, it looks great from the outside and I'm sure its equally good inside. Can I also congratulate the staff, all of those parents, who I'm sure helped raised the $500,000 the school put into the Naga, Yimba Gurrgan Library and Technology Centre, which is really tremendous and to all of those who have, in any way, helped?

Those students, who are here at this current time, will be able to look back with pride in years to come at the extensions that occurred at this school at the time that they were students here.

I want to conclude by congratulating the College on its achievements, on its dedication and the professionalism of its staff and the support that it receives from the students and the community.

And I know these new facilities and the quality of the education provided here at St Brendan's, will allow students to very well remember the past, live the present and prepare for the future.