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Speeches

Bill, Australian Education Amendment Bill 2014

Once againwe hear those on the other side turning something incredibly positive into an incredible negative—once again. While we are at it, when discussing the Children and Family Centres it is a shame that the Labor Party did not think more about how it was going to structure the funding for these particularly importanYou're being negative! You said you were going to be positive!

Ms PRICE: It is a shame that you did not do it and that you left the mess for us to clear up. For the record, I have actually been to a couple of the Children and Family Centres in the vast area of Durack and I have indeed seen the good work that they are doing. I can assure those on the other side, and those in the Children and Family Centres in Durack that I am working very hard to try to clean up the mess left behind.

And now to the bill before us. I am pleased to rise today to speak on the Australian Education Amendment Bill 2014, which will benefit Aboriginal students within the electorate of Durack. The Australian Education Amendment Bill 2014 will amend the Australian Education Act 2013 to allow payment of additional funding in 2014 to schools with large numbers of Indigenous boarding students from remote areas and prevent funding cuts to students with disabilities and special assistance schools that would otherwise occur from 1 January 2015. This bill will result in approximately 2.4 million more being paid to those particular schools in 2014-15 than would have otherwise been the case. The bill also corrects errors and omissions in the existing legislation and provides funding and regulatory certainty to the schools.

The Indigenous boarding initiative, which is of special interest within my electorate of Durack, was announced through the 2014-15 budget and will provide approximately 6.8 million in further funding to eligible schools. The key objective of the bill is to increase Commonwealth funding for eligible non-government boarding schools with significant numbers of Indigenous boarding students. This initiative recognises the increased cost that schools face in the provision of education of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boarding students from remote and very remote areas of Australia. This special measure will benefit students from remote areas who board in order to obtain equal access to education. It is only available to eligible non-government schools. This initiative helps to provide support to Indigenous students, who must overcome so many challenges, including remoteness, in their efforts to participate in and pursue an education. This is only an interim measure, but nonetheless very welcome. A much broader welfare review, including of Abstudy, is being conducted.

This bill helps to address the extra costs of providing boarding and tuition for some Indigenous students. It is a matter that has been raised by many schools. Essentially the funding will be directed to schools that have more than 50 boarding students from remote and very remote areas of Australia, or where a school's boarding population comprises more than 50 per cent Aboriginal boarders. An important outcome will be an increase in both school attendance and student engagement. There are many, many remote communities in Durack and, as members would be aware, effective participation by an Indigenous students in education has been problematic. One of the key objectives of the Abbott government's Aboriginal policy framework is to ensure Aboriginal children receive an education. This bill contributes in a significant way to help meet that objective.

I remind members that my electorate of Durack, being the largest in Australia, stretches from the tip of WA, being the Kimberley, south-east to Moora and Cunderin and east out past Merredin en route to Kalgoorlie. It is big. For those of you who have visited Durack, you may know that the community of Meekatharra is in the Mid West region, north of Geraldton. Meekatharra is an Aboriginal word—in fact the Yamaji people's word—meaning 'place of little water'. Yes, it can be terribly dry out there. Meekatharra has less than 1,000 people, almost 50 per cent of whom are of Aboriginal descent. Located 764 kilometres north-east of Perth on the Great Northern Highway, Meekatharra services the extensive surrounding pastoral and mining areas.

Karalundi Aboriginal Education Community is a kindergarten to year 12 education boarding school for Aboriginal students and is situated 55 kilometres north of Meekatharra. This is an extremely remote location. Karalundi unashamedly provides a very valuable Christian education in many forms and seeks to bring 'self-sustaining change in the lives of its students, their families and their communities'. The school works on being a 'safe place to grow and learn' and on 'developing leaders to serve others within their communities and on land'. Citizenship and educational excellence are pursued with equal vigour. Karalundi is an Aboriginal boarding school for remote and very remote students and it shall benefit from the passage of the bill as it provides increased funding, and they deserve nothing less.

Karalundi was first established in 1954 and can cater for up to 60 Aboriginal boarding students housed at the educational community. It is indeed a quiet achiever. Students from nearby towns like Wiluna, who also have a large Aboriginal population, form part of the cohort who attend Karalundi. Next week I have the pleasure of hosting the Hon. Alan Tudge, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, who is at the table—yes, I am talking about you—in the town of Wiluna, where I will take the opportunity to arrange for the parliamentary secretary to meet with community leaders in this often forgotten part of Australia. And may I congratulate the parliamentary secretary for agreeing to come to this part of the world.

A second school that will benefit greatly from this bill is based in the Kimberley region of Durack and also in Melbourne and is known as the Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School. Wesley College, Melbourne, and the Fitzroy Valley community established an educational partnership in 2004. They signed a memorandum of understanding that captured their shared promised to lead and to live together, and that that would lead to a broader view and new prospects for all the children and families involved. The partnership is based on 'shared respect for people, language, culture and country'. Ten years since the signing of the MOU, no less than 40 Aboriginal students are enrolled this year. These students come from Fitzroy and communities right across the remote Kimberley.

In this unique partnership, the 40 students of 2014 attend school and board at Wesley in Melbourne for half the year. For the remainder of the year they attend the Yiramalay campus, named after the Yiramalay spring located on Leopold Downs Station, which is around 80 kilometres north-east of Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley. Traditional owners, the Bunuba people, operate both Fairfield and Leopold Downs Stations. Their cattle company runs around 20,000 head of cattle on 1.4 million acres. Wesley College provides the educational programs as well as the teaching staff at both sites—Yiramalay, on Leopold Downs Station, and in Melbourne. But of course it is the Bunuba people who assist with the valuable curriculum aspects of Aboriginal language, culture, history and on country activities. They have been innovative: they have developed and published Bunuba and Walmajarri language curriculum resources; they have established Wesmob, a Wesley student advocacy group; they have participated in the women's resource centre bush meetings and also in the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre Festival.

These are just two examples in Durack that have stood the test of time. Karalundi, beyond Meekatharra, established in 1954 and catering for 60 Aboriginal boarding students, and Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School, based in Melbourne and also the Kimberley, established 10 years ago with 40 students involved in 2014. I am very pleased that schools such as Yiramalay and Karalundi stand to benefit from the Australian Education Amendment Bill 2014, which amends the Australian Education Act 2013 to allow for, amongst other things, payment of additional funding in 2014 to schools with large numbers of Indigenous boarding students from remote areas to meet an identified—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour. The honourable member will have leave to continue her remarks when the debate is resumed.

Ms PRICE (Durack) (16:19): As I was saying earlier, ensuring that Aboriginal kids receive education is one of the important planks of the Abbott government's approach to improving the lives of Aboriginal people. In many cases, that education will be available locally. At other times, the best possible educational opportunity is an independent boarding school.

The $6.8 million will meet an identified resourcing shortfall for boarding schools with a large number of Indigenous students. Regulations will determine school eligibility and amounts of funding under the Indigenous Boarding Initiative announced in the 2014-15 budget.

It has been my absolute pleasure to highlight the good work being undertaken by schools with large Aboriginal boarding populations and I reiterate my support for the Australian Education Amendment Bill 2014.



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