Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) I Bill 2013

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this important legislation tonight. The Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Amendment Bill 2013 enables the delivery of programs that complement mainstream schooling, programs that encourage and reward improvements in school attendance and behaviour, academic achievement and effort. I have witnessed firsthand in my own electorate of Canberra the significant impact of targeted complementary programs. In my electorate there is a wonderful school called Richardson Primary School and 20 per cent of the students at Richardson Primary are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. This is the highest number of Indigenous students at any school in the ACT. The community of Richardson Primary proudly celebrates its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity and culture, as does the whole of the Canberra electorate. There are many schools in my electorate which have a range of celebrations every year to honour and celebrate their Indigenous connection.

Richardson Primary embraces the inclusion of all Indigenous Australians in the school community and supports their hopes and aspirations. Richardson Primary School works in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents, students and staff to address disadvantage and injustices through equality education practices and practical strategies. One of the practical strategies that has been implemented by the school in partnership with the Canberra Institute of Technology is an adult literacy program designed for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents in the Richardson Primary community. It is very much a community at Richardson Primary. It is surrounded by the shops and it is in a way the centre of the community, and people from throughout the whole of Richardson suburb congregate at that school every day.

The school community identified that improved literacy and numeracy within the parent community would have significant benefits for the students at the school. With increased parental literacy, parents are better able to help students with their homework, their reading and their storytelling and can engage in their children's curriculum. Many of the parents who participate in the program were jobseekers and as a result of their improved literacy and numeracy skills several have found employment since completing the program. It is a great program. The benefits of this target program have been immense. So far the program has been run twice and the Richardson Primary School community look forward to running similar programs in the future.

The programs that will be funded by this legislation we are debating tonight will not be run in my electorate. However, I know, having seen the success of the Richardson Primary School program, that programs that complement and support the goals of school education do have a significant impact. One such program that will be funded by this bill is the school nutrition program, a part of the education components of the $583 million Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory national partnership. Just last week I had the honour of addressing the national conference of dietitians and it was really interesting talking to them about how important it is to have decent nutrition, a decent diet, for success in life, success in education, success in careers and success in health and wellbeing. The school nutrition program will provide daily meals to 5,000 students in 67 targeted Northern Territory schools. Countless pieces of research, again underscored by the dietitians last Friday, have proven that starting the day with a good breakfast is key to the success of a student, so we know this program will have a positive impact in the Northern Territory.

Like you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I have spent a lot of time in schools and have been to a number of the breakfast clubs that operate throughout Canberra. People often see Canberra as being a well-educated community, a wealthy community, but there are real pockets of disadvantage. I have spent my time here in parliament trying to communicate the fact that there are pockets of disadvantage in Canberra that need to be supported, and these schools highlight that. I have been to a number of schools where the Salvation Army and the school have joined together to run breakfast programs for these students, mainly primary school students but I have been to other meal programs that are run in secondary education. These breakfast programs are great for bringing the kids together not just for a meal, a breakfast in the morning to get them going and keep them awake throughout the day and alert so that they can learn. But also children who do not have much time with their parents have the people from the Salvation Army there, they have people from the general community there, highlighting the fact that there is a community to support them.

Another program that will be funded by this bill is the ARTIE Academy, or Achieving Results through Indigenous Education, which is named in honour of the proud Indigenous State of Origin legend Arthur Beetson and run by the Queensland Former Origin Greats organisation. The ARTIE Academy provides Indigenous students attending selected Queensland secondary schools with the opportunity to participate in a program that encourages and rewards improvements in school attendance, behaviour, academic achievement and effort. Moreover, ARTIE promotes the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural identity and awareness amongst participants. It is strictly important to have a connection to your history, your culture, your language and your people. The ARTIE program has adopted the motto 'Inspire, encourage, succeed', which forms the basis of strategies to improve the schooling endeavours of participating students, to ensure they complete year 12, very important, and help them along their chosen career path.

The ARTIE Academy kicked off in 2009 with six secondary schools focused on mentoring, tutoring and cultural understanding and support for participating students across South-East Queensland. In 2010 the academy targeted 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, which increased to 1,500 in 2011-12. In 2012 ARTIE helped a total of 1,630 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students complete their education —a fantastic achievement. The additional funding provided to ARTIE will allow for the implementation of the program in three primary schools in South-East Queensland.

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