House debates

Monday, 6 March 2023

Private Members' Business


11:41 am

Photo of Sally SitouSally Sitou (Reid, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) acknowledges the extraordinary contribution teachers, principals and school support staff make to our students and the future of Australia;

(2) recognises we face a critical and unprecedented teacher shortage that will have consequences across our society; and

(3) notes the measures the Government has already taken to attract, train and retain teachers.

In my first speech to parliament I paid tribute to the teachers who helped shape me. Teachers like my history teacher, Frank Frederico, taught me about the role individuals can make in reshaping our society. He, like so many of our teachers, demonstrates the power of education to change lives. It's the most powerful tool for good that we have.

Teachers make extraordinary contributions to our society. They are educators, role models and mentors for our kids. But over the last few years it's clear we have failed them. After years of stagnating wages, increasing administrative workloads and a pandemic, our teachers are exhausted. Up to 50 per cent of teachers are quitting within the first five years and many experienced teachers are leaving the field. We've seen a 16 per cent fall in the number of people starting teaching degrees, with a further 50 per cent not completing their degrees. There is a projected nationwide shortfall of about 4,100 high-school teachers by 2025. That's the projected shortfall in two years, but the shortfall is already here. Last year, in just one week in one school in my electorate, there were 43 classes that did not have a dedicated teacher. That meant the students were not receiving the education they needed.

This is not a new crisis. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated the issues, the problems have been growing for years. Last December the federal education minister and I held a principals' forum in my electorate. I wanted him to hear directly from local principals about the challenges they were facing with staff shortages. I thank all the principals who attended for their engagement and honest feedback. They said teachers were leaving the profession for two main reasons: pay and condition. They also spoke about the ever-increasing workloads and administrative duties and the public perception of the profession. Fixing this crisis won't be easy; it will take time. But I'm proud to be part of a government that respects teachers and the important work they do. I'm proud to be part of a government that is committed to fixing this crisis.

We are listening to those who know our education system best—teachers, principals and support staff. We are investing $328 million through the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan to attract, train and retain teachers. We are investing in more university places for teachers, incentivising mid-career professionals to transition into teaching and building the teacher workload reduction fund. We are working closely and collaboratively with the state and territory governments, and I'm pleased to hear that in my home state of New South Wales the opposition Labor leader, Chris Minns, has announced a suite of policies to fix this crisis.

Since the federal election, it's been clear that there has been a marked change in the tone. The work our government is doing is about restoring respect for teachers. I think it speaks volumes that the first action the member for Blaxland, the federal Minister for Education, took was to return to his primary school to thank Mrs Fry, his former primary school teacher. He has launched a campaign to nominate more teachers for Order of Australia awards, so they are recognised for their service to our community.

On the weekend, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to catch up with Alice Leung, the president of the Inner West Teachers Association. We had a frank discussion about the challenges for teachers at the moment. As we wrapped up our coffee and catch-up, she reminded me that people get into teaching because they are passionate about educating young people.

While there is more work to do, I think the steps the Albanese government is taking are the first crucial steps towards offering teachers fair pay and conditions and the respect that they deserve—and, most importantly, making sure that they can get back to what they love doing: teaching.

Photo of Rebekha SharkieRebekha Sharkie (Mayo, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member. Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Cassandra FernandoCassandra Fernando (Holt, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak later.

11:46 am

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Reid for this very important motion. Alongside her, I stand here to give my utmost respect and gratitude to the teachers who walk amongst us right across this nation.

Teachers in regional, rural and remote Australia are critical to giving our kids the best education, as they deserve. We know that people living in rural and regional Australia have much lower educational outcomes than our city cousins. We are less likely to complete year 12, less likely to gain a certificate, for, or above, qualification, and less likely to apply for and then to accept a university offer. That's not because we don't have the capacity. We're missing out on the opportunity.

This educational inequality between metropolitan and regional Australia simply must be addressed. Tackling the unprecedented teacher shortage is, indeed, one step.

In Indi, we are, sadly, at the forefront of this severe teacher shortage. Wodonga senior and middle years colleges and the North East Flexible Learning Network combined are the largest public schools in Indi. When the member for Reid talks about the critical and unprecedented teacher shortages, I hope it doesn't get worse than it is in Wodonga right now. The executive principal of the colleges, Vern Hilditch, a Wodonga school principal for over 30 years, says that finding and keeping qualified teachers in Wodonga has never been harder. The school has been advertising 11 positions since the end of last year and so far has received zero applications—not one. On top of this, last week, they lost three much-needed casual relief teachers from Ireland, who were here on the first year of working-holiday visas. Because their first year is over, they now need to complete three months working in agriculture to qualify for working a second year in Australia. So this means they can no longer teach in Wodonga, where they are loved and needed most.

The effects of these shortages on students are profound. This includes a cohort of kids who are still recovering from the isolation and stress of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know these students are resilient, but, without continuity of teachers, their wellbeing is impacted. Kids are missing out, and the teachers that we already have are under enormous stress as their workloads increase.

The government says it's taking measures to attract, train and retain teachers, but unfortunately, in Wodonga, we're not seeing any of these measures working right now. I want to work with the government on finding long-term, sustainable solutions to addressing educational disadvantage in Indi, including ways that we can attract and retain the highest quality teachers. In the interim, I offer some simple ways the government can address the teacher shortage, right now.

Firstly, regional teaching should be added to the list of approved agricultural industries and work areas for visas. Like we see in Wodonga, there are teachers from across the world who are keen to live and work in regional Australia. Let's make the most of this. I've contacted the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs and the Minister for Education and I look forward to engaging with them on this immediate solution.

Secondly, the government must expand La Trobe University's Nexus program, which receives federal government funding. Participants in the program must have completed an undergraduate degree and then study a Master of Teaching (Secondary) while gaining practical skills working as education support workers in a school. The key driver of this program is to address the challenge, especially in regional and rural areas, of attracting, preparing and retaining high-quality teachers in schools that are often hard to staff and in schools in low socioeconomic communities. The Nexus program has been running since 2020. This year Wodonga has taken on six new students, and Vern Hilditch, the principal, tells me they could take on 10 students. The government should increase the funding to this valuable program. Also, Nexus should be expanded to the VET programs. There's currently only one teacher at Wodonga Senior Secondary College training almost 100 students in their Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care. So let's expand Nexus so we can train many more needed childcare, disability, and building and construction workers.

Thirdly, the government must add teachers to the list of professions eligible to have their HELP debts partially or completely forgiven if they work in regional, rural or remote areas. Already under this scheme, doctors and nurse practitioners are incentivised. We need to add teachers to this list as well. They are some of the most important members of our society. They equip our children. We need to protect them.

11:51 am

Photo of Cassandra FernandoCassandra Fernando (Holt, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Australia faces a teacher shortage 10 years in the making. Teacher shortage is a complex issue, with a number of factors contributing to the problem. While school enrolments have grown considerably, the number of students who study teaching is on a constant decline. Over this period, enrolments in teaching degrees have fallen by 16 per cent, and only half of the students who enrol are actually completing their degree. As a result, the demand for secondary teachers is forecast to exceed the supply of graduates by around 4,100 between 2021 and 2025.

Demand surpassing supply means teachers currently engaged in the profession are overworked and underappreciated. Nearly one-third to one-half of teachers leave the profession within the first five years, often due to low pay and poor public image of the profession. A whopping 71 per cent of those employed consider leaving the profession due to the high workload, particularly being required to do far more hours than they are paid for. My sister-in-law, a primary school teacher in Melbourne's south-east suburbs, is one of them. The Productivity Commission found full-time teachers usually work 50 per cent more than their paid working hours and work more hours than their international counterparts do according to the OECD. As a result, 61 per cent of teachers find the profession too stressful, which in turn has an enormous impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

It is important to remember that the effect of this shortage is systematic, affecting everyone from newly employed graduates to even principals, two-thirds of whom identify heavy workload as a factor limiting their effectiveness. This not only leads to a significant burden on existing staff, who are often required to take on additional responsibilities, but is also detrimental to the quality of education that students are receiving. Furthermore, the shortage of teachers is having a particularly substantial impact on disadvantaged areas like my electorate of Holt. These areas are already facing a range of challenges, including a lack of infrastructure and services, and the shortage of teachers only serves to compound these issues.

Urgent action is required to address the teacher shortage in Australia, and I'm proud the Albanese Labor government is leading the way in doing so. The government is investing in Australia's teachers, with $328 million in targeted funding through the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan to turn the situation around. It sets out 27 actions that Commonwealth, state and territory governments will implement. This includes $159 million to train more teachers, with more additional Commonwealth supported places offered in 2023-24 for bachelor's degrees and other courses in early childhood, primary and secondary education. There's $56 million for scholarships worth $40,000 each to encourage the best and brightest to become teachers. There's $68 million to triple the number of mid-career professionals shifting into teaching, $10 million to boost professional development and $10 million for a campaign to raise the status of the teaching profession. It's instituting a $30 million teacher workload reduction fund to trial new ways to reduce the workload on teachers and maximise the time they must teach. This plan will boost the number of students choosing to study teaching. It will provide the support they need to finish their studies and will invest in programs that will reduce workload and increase the status of the profession in the community.

Our children's education is too important to ignore, and we cannot afford to let this problem continue to go unaddressed. I am confident we can build a nation where teachers are respected, supported and encouraged. I would like to thank all teachers across Australia. We in this House appreciate the hard work that you do to educate the leaders of tomorrow.

11:56 am

Photo of Aaron VioliAaron Violi (Casey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to commend the member for Reid for this motion. All of us have great memories of our teachers, and we understand how important education is not just for the current generation but for future generations as well. I was at my old high school, Mount Lilydale Mercy College, for their graduation ceremony in December. Mr Rogers, who was my year 9 homeroom teacher, was there, and I couldn't bring myself to call him John. I still had to call him Mr Rogers, 25 years later, which he thought was a little bit weird! But it was a reminder to me of the impact that he'd had on my life as a young man. I know everyone in this House has stories about the important work that teachers do—and not just teachers but teachers aides and the administrative staff. Everyone within a primary school or a high school comes together.

So I want to start by thanking all the teachers and all the teachers aides, and I've got family who are teachers and teachers aides. I want to thank not just those in Casey but those across the country. Thank you all for everything you do. Many of us know firsthand—I've got a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old—that the last three years have been extremely tough for all families and all students, but teachers have really been on the front line in schools and for learning from home. They are overworked. They are stressed. There are a lot of factors that bring this all together, and I just want to thank them for all the work they've done in our community to make sure the students were able to get through the last three years.

But it's also really important that we acknowledge and understand that we're not through the challenges. Last week, I was at Healesville Primary School and Healesville High School, and Warowa college, which is a boarding school for Indigenous female students. From talking to the principals and the teachers, there are many students that are struggling because of the isolation and some the challenges they had through COVID and the lockdowns. So it's an ongoing challenge. It's really important that we recognise that, while we're back out and about in the community, schools are still feeling the impact. That's why it is so important that we continue to support schools. It's not always just about the money; it's about supporting those teachers.

There are some initiatives we can look at. The coalition government linked federal university funding for teacher education to course quality. We initiated the Quality Initial Teacher Education Review, which was delivered in February 2022, and it made 17 recommendations. So there's a strong blueprint for meaningful reform, and it's sitting there, ready to go. In December 2022, the education ministers agreed on the National Teacher Action Workforce Plan, and this is a step in the right direction. The 28 recommendations largely mirror the coalition's teacher education review. We really can't have these delays. We need to initiate them straightaway. A lot of them are being pushed back to mid to late 2023, and that's too late for a lot of these schools. We need to look at rolling out these initiatives as soon as possible.

But we also need to look at other opportunities to make it easier for teachers. My mum is a teacher, and I know that there is a lot of administration and a lot of paperwork outside of school hours that teachers do that they don't get paid for. How do we unlock technology and allow systems where they can have more uniform class lessons? How can they use things—dare I ask it? It's a bit controversial in education at the moment!—like ChatGPT and artificial intelligence to actually help them prepare their work plans? It would not be to do the work for them but to give them a baseload, so that a lot of that administrative workload would be taken off them. And that's what we need to do.

We know teachers face challenges. They're overworked. They're stressed.

There is a bipartisan initiative to support education—to support our teachers and our teachers aides—because, once we invest in those future generations, they deliver returns today but also returns for the future. It's important that we acknowledge and recognise that, for teachers, it's not just the education that they deliver. There's a lot of care that teachers and teachers aides provide, whether that's through breakfast programs, or providing lunch, or buying gifts to give to students whose families just aren't able to provide them for those students. So teachers and teachers aides do amazing work. It's important that we continue to support them. It's important that we recognise that action needs to be delivered at a systemic level. It's important for the federal government to work with state governments, to make sure we're addressing these shortages and keeping the teachers that are in the system there as long as possible. I commend the motion to the House.

12:01 pm

Photo of Dan RepacholiDan Repacholi (Hunter, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to thank the member for Reid for bringing this important motion forward. Education is one of the most important parts of any society. It should be one of the highest priorities of any government. It certainly is one of the highest priorities for this Labor government.

Young people are the future of our country and our world. They will be our future doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects, builders, electricians, plumbers, boilermakers, fitters, plasterers—

Honourable Member:

An honourable member interjecting

An honourable member: Neurosurgeons.

An honourable member: Farmers.

Photo of Dan RepacholiDan Repacholi (Hunter, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Neurosurgeons, farmers—so many options we have here of what they will be. So it is vital that these young people have access to and receive the best education in the world, to make sure that our country continues to punch above its weight and thrive into the future.

But, in order for this to happen, our students need teachers. Sadly, this country is facing a shortage of teachers, and it's not only the students who will pay the price for this. It will also impact the future of our nation.

This is a shortage that's been 10 years in the making in this country. We have falling enrolments in teaching degrees, and the demand was forecast to exceed the supply of secondary teachers by 4,100 teachers between 2021 and 2025. Not only are fewer students enrolling in teaching, but those who study teaching are less likely to complete their studies than other students, with only 50 per cent of teaching students completing their degree. This is just not good enough. So there are fewer and fewer people enrolling in teaching, and even fewer completing their degrees. But the figures also show that, once those who do complete their degrees become teachers, between 30 and 50 per cent of them will leave within their first five years of being in a classroom.

As with many of the problems created by those opposite, it is electorates like mine that are even more affected, with this shortage of teachers being more severe in rural and remote areas. This has been highlighted recently, with two schools in the Hunter facing chronic shortages. Muswellbrook High School has eight permanent teacher vacancies, and 221 lessons a fortnight are being taught by teachers outside their expertise. Merriwa Central School has five permanent vacancies, and, according to a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry, had 3,800 split or merged classes during 2021 and the first half of 2022. Once again, regional Australia was forgotten about by those who love to throw their slogans on every telegraph pole they can find.

These issues are complex and have developed over a long period of time, but we do have an idea of some of the reasons for these issues. The most commonly cited reason for leaving the profession is high and increased workloads. The Productivity Commission has found that teachers work about 50 per cent more than their paid hours each week, and, according to the OECD, our teachers are working more hours than teachers in other countries. One may think that teachers working so hard is great for our students and great for education in Australia, but this is not the case. Teachers are too often caught up in administrative tasks, and only 40 per cent of their time is actually spent in the classroom, face to face with their students.

This is a government that actually cares about education and the future of young Australians. We're implementing measures to address the teacher shortage, like investing in Australia's teachers with $328 million in targeted funding through the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan. This plan will provide $159 million to train more teachers; $56 million for scholarships, worth up to $40,000 each, to encourage the best and brightest to become teachers; $68 million to triple the number of mid-career professionals shifting into teaching; and $10 million to boost professional development and make sure that our teachers continue to improve.

This plan will also see $10 million go towards a campaign to raise the status of the teaching profession, and the $30 million Teacher Workload Reduction Fund will look at ways to reduce their workload and maximise their time spent in the classroom with students. This plan will increase the number of people studying teaching and will also help them finish their degree. This plan will reduce workloads and give teachers the recognition they deserve in the community. This is a solid plan from a solid government with a strong focus on education. I want to say thank you to all the teachers out there. They put up with me as a student, and they put up with many students who are different and challenging. I thank them for all they do.

12:06 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

I acknowledge the member for Reid and her important motion to the House. I acknowledge the member for Lalor and her important contribution to the teaching ranks and what she did to help students, because teachers can be transformational. I remember my schooling years well, and I remember teachers such as John Egan, my year 7 form master, who still contacts me regularly and tells me what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. Yes, he did wield the strap once or twice—thank you, member for Forrest—and I deserved every one of them! Brother Felix Augustine O'Connor, John Zoglmann, Bob Stampton and Lyn Kensey were all wonderful educators who put themselves out to ensure that they went above and beyond the call of duty to get the students of St Michael's Regional High School at Wagga Wagga where they should be, ready for society.

WB Yeats said, 'Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire,' and Robert Frost said, 'I am not a teacher, but an awakener'—and how true those words are. I'm very proud that my daughter Georgina—Georgina Bell, she was married recently—is a teacher and is making sure that English, the English language and drama are the focus of her teaching. From reading some of the things that she has shown me, I know that she's making great strides in her profession and in teaching the kids down in Melbourne how to be their best selves.

When it comes to teaching—and those opposite probably didn't mention this—Sarah Mitchell is doing some great things as the education minister in New South Wales. I know there's an election on, but the sorts of the things that this motion talks about, like the unprecedented teacher shortage having consequences across our society, are being addressed by the New South Wales coalition and have been for the 12 years they have been in government. As we go into this 25 March poll, there's a new cash incentive of $4,000 for public school teachers who obtain nationally Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher accreditation, and there's a $10,000 incentive as part of a push to address shortages outside cities.

My daughter, Georgina, won one of those scholarships to teach in a remote location. She could have easily, once she'd graduated, taught at Wagga Wagga, and schools there would have actually paid the equivalent of that incentive for her HECS debt and whatever else. But she still chose to go out to Griffith, where the NSW education department had assigned her. I was so proud of her for doing that, because, as I said, she could have quite easily continued to live at home—and probably saved more money—but she said, 'No, I'm going to do this because that's what I signed up to do.' And she fulfilled that obligation to the department and to the children in that remote area—Griffith was seen to be remote, even though it's a city of 27½ thousand, or was at the time. Those three years at Griffith High School made her as a teacher. I can remember her very first day at school was difficult. She had a very difficult student who was quite aggressive towards her, but, by the end of the year, as I understand it, he was in the school play wearing a pink tutu and really getting involved because of the education that he'd been given and the part that he'd then played in making sure that teamwork was first and foremost. That's what teaching is about. It's about inspiring kids and transforming them to be their best selves.

I compliment Minister Mitchell for the work that she is doing. She is a regional person herself. No matter what sector it is, right across every endeavour of society, there are 80,000 full-time vacancies in regional Australia at the moment that we need to fill—you'd know that yourself, Deputy Speaker Sharkie—and education is certainly one of those sectors. We know that teachers do not work school hours. I know teachers who routinely get to work very early, just a bit after seven in the morning, and are still there at 5.30 at night. They take their work home with them. I have to say, during COVID, it was so difficult not having that face-to-face interaction with students—particularly boys, I'm told, anecdotally, of course. Now that school is back in the classroom and it's face-to-face learning again, teachers are quickly trying to make up the gap between those students, particularly the year 8s and 9s who lost those years of education. It's all right for the primary school kids; they adapt and get on with things. But, for the high school children, it was very, very difficult and, like the member for Hunter, I commend teachers and thank them very much, earnestly and honestly, for the job they do.

12:11 pm

Photo of Joanne RyanJoanne Ryan (Lalor, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is an absolute pleasure to rise to speak on the motion put forward by the member for Reid, and I thank her for doing so. I acknowledge the member for Hunter's contribution today. I also acknowledge the member for Riverina, and I thank him for his words about my contribution to education in my time as a teacher and as a principal. The member for Hunter thanked the teachers who had taught him. I'd echo that and thank the teachers who taught the member for Hunter. Having been a teacher, I can imagine the member for Hunter in a classroom. He would have been, obviously, one of my favourite students sitting in the back row of year 9 at a school in Melton.

I spent my 27 years in state education in the state of Victoria, and I want to use this five minutes to nut down to what it is that teachers do. One of the issues we have with teaching, in terms of lifting people's thoughts and the way they think about teachers and elevating them in the community, is that, of course, everyone was a student and, therefore, everyone's an expert in education. Everyone knows the teacher that inspired them or the teacher that got them to nail down to task, or just the teacher that opened the world to them or challenged them. But people don't understand the complexity of this work.

As an English teacher, or a maths teacher, I would have, on average, most years, 100 students in a secondary school. That's 100 students that I am intrinsically working with across a year—five classes if I'm teaching English. If I'm teaching sociology, science or phys ed, I've only got them, potentially, for three classes a week, so I've got more students. I'm likely to have 150 to 175 students. Teaching is not about delivering a lesson plan. You can't reduce the workload by creating lesson plans and assuming that teachers can then pick up this generic lesson plan and walk in and deliver the information—because that's not what teaching is. Yes, teachers teach to a curriculum, but the lesson plan isn't the lesson. The lesson plan has to be created with the 25 students that are going to be involved in this lesson at the forefront of your mind. That is the complex nature of the work. We can know the curriculum, but you need to know the students to shape that curriculum, so that you get maximum benefit, maximum uptake, if you like, maximum engagement in the material and, therefore, maximum learning.

There are other factors that are in play. Of those 100 children that I'm working with across the week, as an English teacher in a secondary school, every single one comes through the door with their own background, their own ideas and their own experiences. If two of those children across the week are having a particularly rough time, it doesn't matter how well I've planned my curriculum for those two children if I don't get in there and make them feel connected. So there's the complexity of the work around the human-to-human element, and we've heard lots of it here about teachers spending all of this time not in face-to-face teaching. There's an assumption that it's all paperwork. It isn't! It's going and finding the students you teach during the week when you're not teaching another class and connecting to them that way. It's being the year-level coordinator who is following up on students across that week. So lots of it is face-to-face human work, but not necessarily face-to-face teaching. It takes hours and hours.

Then there's that third element, around assessment and reporting, that has become, if you talk to teachers, one of the most onerous parts. That is being driven by our governments, driving us to perform better. We've found new ways to ensure that our assessment and reporting regimes are measuring student achievement. This is two-pronged. First it tells the teacher where that child is, so they can take the next steps to the next place. I repeat: 100 students across the week, 100 pieces of assessment and reporting. In a normal week, I'm trying to touch base three times in assessment with every one of those children. The assessments aren't all written, and they've got to be creative. But I'm trying to create that scenario where I know that child's learning and I know how to get them to the next step.

This is incredibly complex work, and it needs governments to stand up and take notice and make sure we're remunerating our teachers properly.

12:16 pm

Photo of Nola MarinoNola Marino (Forrest, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I do thank the member for Reid for this motion and acknowledge the work of the member for Lalor, who just spoke, as well. I also want to acknowledge and thank our teachers, our school support staff and our principals right around Australia for the extraordinary work that they do. As we know, at times the true value of the teacher's commitment in educating their students and being part of a community can be undervalued. In addition, we see an increasing number of children presenting with a range of special needs in schools, and this is something else that teachers have to deal with.

Teachers have had an extraordinary impact on most of us in our time at school. Most of us can pick out one or two teachers who really made a difference to us. Even for the students who had great difficulties or challenges at school for different reasons in their time, there was possibly one teacher that cut through and made a difference to that individual student.

I remember an amazing teacher by the name of Fiore Rando, at the Harvey High School. Fiore was a teacher of what in those days was called social studies, but he provoked a great interest, in those of us attending his classes, in broader affairs—not just locally but also statewide, nationally and globally. But the measure of the man was not only his great personal values but also the effort he put into each student. I particularly remember one paper of mine in an exam where he'd marked it three times—82 per cent, 83 and then 84. He'd made the effort, which teachers do, to try to make sure the student got the best encouragement they could get to perform at their best.

I see that all of the time in the schools that I visit and in the teachers that are so dedicated to their students. But it's not only their students. Often it's the family behind that they are dealing with, and they also have a great involvement in the community. In regional, rural and remote communities in particular, teachers are really such a strong part of our community, and they have a special respect because of what they do for our kids. We really need them and we really value them being in our part of the world because often it isn't the first place of choice for those seeking a career.

I really want to offer a special thankyou to the teachers who make the effort to understand those who are having great challenges, whether it's with a particular subject or another issue. Maybe they don't fit that strictly academic box. They may not be the top students or the best students. They're the kids who need someone to make an effort to understand them, to know that each one has something that they can do very well and to encourage that to give those students so much more confidence in what it is that they are good at or the skill they have. I also want to acknowledge those who work in our agricultural colleges.

There is an offering in Bunbury called Shedworks. This is a fantastic opportunity for some of the students who have a range of challenges in their schooling, family or lives. Perhaps they don't fit the traditional model of education. They go to Shedworks where they learn all sorts of new skills that they find they're very good at. It could be in woodwork or making a range of new products and then marketing them. They are exposed to a whole lot of other people who are creative in different ways. At times they sell these items at the markets and they learn about how to market. So many of them have gone on to other education or training beyond Shedworks.

When I've been to their relatively small graduations, I've seen the parents and the families so grateful that the teachers in that Shedworks environment have encouraged and inspired these young people, who potentially thought they didn't have the same opportunities as others, to make the very best of themselves, which they do once they leave Shedworks. Often there's a job beyond that as well for those students. What an amazing outcome when you're working with kids who need that extra help to find themselves. I've met many teachers who are working countless hours, not just in formal education but in the support and encouragement of young people. They make sure they check in with these kids with the wonderful words—'Are you okay? If you're not, how can I help you?' That's what our teachers do best.

Photo of Rebekha SharkieRebekha Sharkie (Mayo, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.