Senate debates

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Statements by Senators

Early Learning Matters Week, Australian Capital Territory: Seniors, National Science Week, Gordon Community Centre, Australian Capital Territory: Constituent Celebrations

1:15 pm

Photo of Zed SeseljaZed Seselja (ACT, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

In recognition of Early Learning Matters Week, which runs from 5 to 12 August, I was very grateful to be hosted by the brilliant team at YMCA Holt Early Learning Centre. Supported by federal funding, via childcare subsidies and National Partnership Agreements funding, early education care services in Australia provide vital early learning for around 1.2 million children. The YMCA Holt Early Learning Centre is just one of many centres around our country and around our cities helping young children to get a head start on their education. Visiting the centre was a great opportunity to see quality early education in action, with educators assisting children from birth to five years old to engage in a bustling learning environment. I want to thank my hosts: Jodie Ledbrook, Executive Manager of Children's Services at YMCA; Sam Page, CEO of Early Childhood Australia; Andrew O'Neil, acting CEO; Katie Foster, acting director; Jessica Smith, early learning manager; Alice Kristoff, educational leader; and all of the wonderful children who allowed us to invade their space for a little bit of time.

Last week, I had the great pleasure of holding a seniors forum, with 75 seniors in attendance, just down the road in Deakin. It was a great opportunity to receive firsthand feedback from senior citizens, and I was grateful for the participation of all present. I was able to speak with Canberra seniors about the government's recent More Choices for a Longer Life Package from this year's budget, which includes an increase of $5 billion in aged-care funding over four years and record health and hospital funding, including a $2.5 billion injection for ACT hospitals—the largest in our history in the ACT. It's a huge injection. It's a massive increase on the previous deal in both real terms and actual terms.

The forum was also attended by an expert panel. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow panellists from various departments and aged-care services who were of great assistance during the lengthy question and answer time. We had Rae Lamb, Aged Care Complaints Commissioner; Troy McNaughton, Assistant Director of New South Wales and ACT Aged Care Complaints Commission; Stephen Gribble, Director of Operational Support and Transition at the Department of Health; Michelle Watkins; Paula Gelo; Kath Paton; Chris Ritchie; and Roger Munson from ADACAS, the ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service. Thank you to all of those who attended on the panel. Thank you, particularly, to those who came along, had their say and got to learn a little bit about government policy in this area. It was also great to get the feedback. There are a number of things we'll be taking up and following up on, on behalf of those who attended.

This week is National Science Week. In the lead-up to this week, as the Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation, I had the great privilege of attending a CSIRO STEM in Schools event at Caroline Chisholm High School in Chisholm in Tuggeranong in Canberra's south. I was able to participate in the event with the class. It was a fun and informative class where we learnt about STEM careers, discussed where STEM can take you if you choose it as a career and looked at some of the STEM activities you can do as part of a career in science, technology, engineering or maths.

I particularly wanted to thank Ms Mary Mulcahy, Director of Education and Outreach, CSIRO, who ran the class for CSIRO and did an outstanding job. It was very, very engaging. I also wanted to thank Kris Willis, Principal of Caroline Chisholm High School—one of our great schools in the south of Canberra. Thank you to Paula Taylor, who is an amazing teacher at the school, who facilitated the event and who, in the past in a previous role, I had the opportunity to honour for her outstanding contribution as a teacher. Paula Taylor is a great teacher. We have so many great teachers in the territory, but she's one who is an absolute stand-out. I want to thank all of the students who participated in the class. They really were very engaged—an amazingly bright student cohort. Many of them knew exactly, much more than I did when I was 16, where they wanted to be in five or 10 years time. I absolutely wish them well in that endeavour—those bright minds that we are looking to harness in the STEM field. It is very important. There are great opportunities in it and I encourage those students to continue to pursue it, but they can only do it with great teachers like Paula Taylor and Kris Willis and being inspired by the likes of Mary Mulcahy.

I want to highlight another issue. People try to stereotype Canberra as being a very comfortable, wealthy city. On average, incomes are higher in Canberra, but those of us who know Canberra know the diversity of Canberra and know that there are, indeed, many people in our community who struggle to make ends meet and do it very, very tough. Last Friday, I visited the Gordon Community Centre, where Reverend Jonathan Holt and his team, along with Anglicare, have come together to create a safe space for people to get the help that they may need. They have everything from community morning teas to mothers groups and a community pantry. The pantry runs off the generosity of Canberrans who are able to give a little bit. It's open to those who need it. I encourage anyone who is listening and able, especially as we continue through the colder months of the year and then approach Christmas, when families are under even higher pressure, to get in contact with the centre and donate what they can. It's not just non-perishable food that is required. I was told when I was there that the particular needs for families who are struggling are often the more expensive but very important purchases, likes formula or nappies. We don't have nappies anymore in the family, but we've had a lot. They are very, very expensive, and, if you're doing it tough, that's one of the things that you really do struggle to pay for, along with some of the other basics. Things that are needed include nappies, formula and bathroom products, in addition to all of the canned goods and things that we would traditionally give. I commend the work the volunteers are doing in Gordon. Jonathan and the team are an outstanding group of people who are absolutely committed to serving their community, and particularly serving those who are doing it very, very tough.

I want to give a big shout-out and big congratulations to Lionel and Leona Evans on the wonderful occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. Lionel and Leona have 10 children and are great contributors in their local community. They've been active in several community organisations for many years, raising money and providing support to those less fortunate. They have 14 grandchildren whom they spend a lot of time with. What an amazing effort: married for 50 years, 10 kids, 14 grandchildren and doing amazing things in the community. To Lionel and Leona, congratulations, happy anniversary and thank you for the amazing contribution you've made to our community in Canberra.

I'd like to also take the opportunity to congratulate Barbara Stapleton on her 90th birthday. Barbara is the first-born of nine children to Frank and Phyllis William. The William family is very well known in Queanbeyan, as Barbara's parents owned and operated a general store and a teahouse for many years and were very community minded, often supplying large lines of credit to those less fortunate than themselves. Barbara spent most of her teenage years working in both stores and speaks fondly of those years. Barbara married Gerald Stapleton in the early 1950s and they raised five children before his passing in 2001. Barbara is a very active senior citizen, proud of the fact that she can still drive. She loves being around family, which now comprises her five children, their spouses, 17 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. To Barbara Stapleton, happy 90th birthday and congratulations on what is an amazingly well lived life so far.

In the time I have left, I want to point out one of the major tourist attractions in the ACT which is celebrating its 20th birthday: Canberra's very own National Zoo and Aquarium.

Senator Farrell interjecting

I don't know, Senator Farrell, whether you've been to the Zoo and Aquarium, but, if you haven't, you should.

Senator Gallacher interjecting

I'm hearing Senator Gallacher ask whether the tram line goes there. No, it does not. It doesn't go many places, I've got to say. It will just go down Northbourne Avenue when it's finished.

For Richard Tindale, the National Zoo and Aquarium has been such a labour of love. He started that and he has invested so much of his time and money, and it's become an amazing tourist attraction. The Jamala Wildlife Lodge, which I visited recently, is quite an extraordinary experience. It's been getting a lot of coverage around the country. You can literally sleep right next to the lions and the other wildlife; they come up to your window. It's an extraordinary tourist attraction. To Richard Tindale and the team at the National Zoo and Aquarium, congratulations on 20 years. It is a great attraction for many people who come to the territory, so well done with what you're contributing to tourism in the ACT.