Nearly two weeks ago the Prime Minister and the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, received a rock star reception when she officially opened the trade training centre at St Mary MacKillop in Isabella Plains in my electorate.
The trade training centre is the first of four in the Catholic school system in the ACT. The other three are at St Clare's College in Griffith in my electorate, and at Merici and St Francis Xavier colleges in the electorate of Fraser.
The opening had been months in the planning and was a major production—almost an MGM production— thanks to the event organisation skills of the wonderful team at St Mary MacKillop College. While I am grateful to the entire school community, and those of the schools in the area and region, I would particularly like to thank the principal, Michael Lee, and Sandra Darley, Garry Seary, Karen Hundy, Cindy Dean, Aiden Brunskil, Tony Lazzarato, Kim Maloney and Janelle Maas—all from St Mary MacKillop College—Mark Hogan, from the Catholic Education Office, and Father John Armstrong, parish priest from Corpus Christi— the former Holy Family parish—who did the blessing. He stepped in at the last minute because the Monsignor unfortunately had an accident. I would like to thank all of them for making the day such a success.
The Prime Minister and the minister were greeted by a procession of students at every turn from local schools: St Francis of Assisi, St Anthony's, St Clare of Assisi, Holy Family and the lovely parish of St Gregory's at Queanbeyan. Tyler Friend and Ashley Evans, the school chief captains, did a wonderful job of escorting the Prime Minister 'hither and yon'. Liam Pitt provided the acknowledgement of country and Liam Brown, the Indigenous Support Officer, performed on the didgeridoo. Maria Suraci, who has the voice of an angel, sang an evocative version of the national anthem, and little Joseph Sergi from St Gregory's in Queanbeyan had everyone in stitches with his speech and his reference to Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus as the first working family.
In honour of the Prime Minister's Welsh heritage, the choir sang the Sunset Prayer of Reverend Eli Jenkins from Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. It was a very, very moving rendition of that beautiful piece.
As if that were not enough, the Prime Minister and Minister Garrett then went on a tour of the new trade training centre. The centre, which was built thanks to a $5.7 million investment across the four schools, trains students in hospitality and construction. The Prime Minister and Minister Garrett mingled with students and guests and shared a brief afternoon tea in Cafe Bella, which had been upgraded last year as part of the construction of the trade training centre. We also had the opportunity to experience and indulge in the wonderful food that was prepared in the new industrial kitchen that has been built as part of this trade training centre. The students did a beautiful spread and many of them are mini master chefs. We all ate way too much for an afternoon tea.
The Prime Minister and Minister Garrett also had the opportunity to speak with students who were developing basic woodwork skills and building a house on site.
All of the students praised the centre and the training they were receiving. Some wanted to go on to study a trade as a result. Others thought it gave them a skill to help them through uni. All of them spoke about the world of new career options opened up by the centre.
I am looking forward to attending the official opening of the St Clare's College centre, which is currently under construction. I was at St Clare's recently to present my School Legends awards to some of the recipients there, and saw the progress to date. At the moment, it is just a big pit in the ground, but I am very much looking forward to watching it grow over the coming year and attending the official opening some time later in the year or early next year.
I am also looking forward to the official opening of the Tuggeranong Sustainable Living Trade Training centres, which are being built at Erindale College, Lake Tuggeranong College, Calwell High School, Caroline Chisholm High School, Lanyon High School, Wanniassa Senior School, and Namadgi School thanks to an $8.1 million investment from the Gillard government.
Canberra has a significant skills shortage. In fact it is acute according to the Canberra Business Council, particularly in trades. This skills shortage has the potential to impact on our future growth and prosperity. That is why the investment in these centres is so important. They go a long way towards addressing the trades skills shortage here in Canberra, while giving students hands-on training to prepare them for the workforce. They are a very welcome addition to the vocational education landscape here, and provide a range of career and money-making options so that our students can realise their full potential, reduce our skills shortage and contribute to the future prosperity of the ACT.