Thursday, 5 August 2021
Questions without Notice
Closing the Gap
Opposition senators interjecting—
First, I didn't hear it, so I can't rule. That is not in the list of terms that I have traditionally ruled out of order, although—
Opposition senators interjecting—
If the opposition could listen to me. I am going to seek some advice from the Clerk about words that we've asked to be withdrawn before, and I will come back to the chamber if necessary, and upon reviewing the Hansard. But I will ask senators to restrain themselves. I'm not certain whether that term has been ruled unparliamentary before, but I will check. I will also urge senators that—
Honourable senators interjecting—
Can I ask senators to listen for a minute. Terms that are parliamentary when used in a general sense are sometimes unparliamentary when specifically directed at a person. That is what I will check about this term. Senator McMahon, can you restart your question, please, because I couldn't hear it.
I thank Senator McMahon for her question and for her strong representation of the Northern Territory. The Liberal and Nationals government knows that further effort is required to improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in regional and remote Australia. Indigenous kids, particularly those from remote areas, are more likely to start school behind, with the gap growing throughout their schooling life, and, if you start behind, it's incredibly hard to catch up. School attendance rates have not improved, and, despite some improvements in literacy and numeracy, about one in four Indigenous students in years 5, 7 and 9 remain below the national minimum standards in reading. We want to turn that around.
Since the national agreement was signed, the Commonwealth has taken concrete, practical steps to establish partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to develop solutions that work and enable shared decision-making processes.
Everything we do under that agreement is in partnership not just with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders but with states and territories. As announced by the PM today, we're investing $250 million to ensure all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a strong and positive start to their learning journey to be able to access quality education that will assist closing the gap, with significant investment in evidence based programs, a lift in participation and improving literacy rates, and $280 million to support improvements in leadership capability, professional development and student outcomes through city-to-country partnerships, getting high-performing metro schools partnering with Indigenous schools. Haileybury, in my home state, is partnering with an Indigenous school in Darwin, and they're getting great improvements. You can't be what you can't see. Often, for young people, it's learning from their peers. We've seen a significant improvement in NAPLAN results as a result of that partnership. We're also investing in— (Time expired)
We know that focusing on reading and literacy will help set up Indigenous students for success in their school years and beyond. We're backing what works by providing up to $25 million to scale up evidence based programs that have already succeeded. We're putting $8 million to support the program called Making Up Lost Time in Literacy. We're going to double the number of schools that are going to be participating in that program. That is a program that focuses on a phonics based approach to literacy skills, because not everybody learns the same way. The government knows how important it is that teachers who are engaged in schools with Indigenous students have the right skills, and we will provide $5 million to the Good to Great Schools Australia program, which supports better student learning outcomes by improving teaching methods. We're also going to provide additional funding to support the expansion of the Kimberley Schools Project in the Pilbara region of WA.
We're not just investing in early childhood care and education, but, for secondary, we're wanting to make sure that parents and students have choice to determine what works best for them. In remote communities there can be few if any local secondary school options, and that's why often boarding or residential schools are an important option for so many children in your home territory, Senator. The government will invest $75 million to help meet the cost of building three new boarding schools in remote Western Australia in the NT and upgrades to a fourth in the Northern Territory. Indigenous children in regional and remote areas need to see the opportunities available to them. Together, using the evidence, we can close the gap on Indigenous education outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.