Standing up for Canberra

Milestones in the Canberra Electorate 2013

I begin tonight by finishing a statement I made yesterday about the late Chris Peters AM, a true champion of the Canberra community.

My time was cut off yesterday after saying that Chris had once said that his greatest achievement was uniting the Canberra business community to help after the 2003 Canberra bushfires. I want to add now that he will be remembered for that, and so much more. My condolences and sympathies go to his wife, Jo, and his family and friends. Chris Peters was an extraordinary Canberran.

Last week I had the privilege of visiting a wonderful school in my electorate, St Bede's Primary School in Red Hill, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary assembly. St Bede's Primary School was founded in 1963 by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan to provide children from the local community with a Catholic education that was grounded in the school's philosophy to 'Walk in Love and Peace'.

Throughout its 50 years the 'Walk in Love and Peace' motto has continued to be a hallmark of the St Bede's primary education, and is actively fostered through the current '5Cs' program that promotes cooperation, courtesy, consideration, compromise and consequences. The Sisters of the Good Samaritan ran the school until 1985, and the school continues to maintain strong links with the Good Samaritan communities in Canberra and Queanbeyan.

Celebrations for the anniversary also included a special Grandparents Day event, a whole-school mass and a 'big bash' birthday party. I congratulate the school on the significant milestone and its 50 years of educating Canberra children to live a life of love and peace. Happy birthday, St Bede's: it was great to join you last week for your celebrations, and it was great to share with you those people who have been educated over generations.

Another institution in my electorate of Canberra also celebrated its 50th anniversary a few weeks ago, and that is Canberra's Italo-Australian Club in Forrest. On Saturday 18 May, I had the pleasure of attending the Italo-Australian Club's 50th anniversary dinner.

The club was officially opened in March 1963 by Sir Alexander Downer and Pasquale Damiano. In a beautiful piece of symmetry, Pasquale's nephew, Angelo Damiano, is the current director of the club, and the guest speaker at the anniversary dinner was Sir Alexander Downer's son, former foreign minister— and my former boss for a very short time—Alexander Downer.

Since its opening, the Italo-Australian Club has become an important part of the Canberra community, and I am sure many of my parliamentary colleagues and predecessors would have spent some time there over the last 50 years. I would like to acknowledge Angelo Damiano and the board, staff and founding members for having me there that evening and to thank them for their continuing contribution to the Canberra community. I would also like to thank Gary Kent from the Inner South Community Council for his work in organising the celebrations. Buon compleanno, Italo-Australian Club.

I recently saw firsthand the incredible results of the government's investment in trade training centres when I opened the Chiara Centre at St Clare's College of behalf of Minister Garrett. I have been watching the building work at St Clare's for months, and I was very excited to be asked to open it.

St Clare's College is one of four schools in a cluster application submitted by lead school, St Mary MacKillop College—also in my electorate—in round 2 of the Trade Training Centres in Schools Program, and was awarded funding of over $5.7 million to construct four trade training centres. Other schools in this cluster to benefit from the trade training facility are Merici College and St Francis Xavier College.

I was totally blown away by the new trade training centre. It is a state-of-the-art and very impressive facility. The project is an example of how cooperative partnerships, coupled with long-term vision, can help promote quality education, can address national skills shortages—and we have skill shortages here in Canberra in every profession except for community pharmacy apparently; it was actually the late darling Chris Peters who told me that—and enhance the productivity of our nation.

St Clare's put on a very professional and dignified opening. I thank Sallie-Fay Rodriguez, the college captain, Courtney Barton, the Indigenous college captain, Philip Tammen, chair of college board, Father Francis Kolencherry for delivering a moving liturgy and blessing of the new facilities, Moira Najdecki, the Director of the Catholic Education Office, Paul Carroll, the college principal, and all the other Catholic educators who were there that day. This is a lifechanging investment in training and education by Labor. It was indeed my pleasure to unveil the plaque and officially declare the St Clare's trade training centre open.

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