Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 3 Hansard (10 March) . . Page.. 948..
MR SPEAKER: Ms Tucker, earlier I said that you could not move your amendment until Mr Corbell's amendment had been dealt with. I did not want to mislead you by indicating that you would be able to move the amendment later. But, if Mr Corbell's amendment is successful, I will not allow your amendment, pursuant to standing orders 141 and 142.
MS TUCKER: Okay.
MR PRATT (11.02): The Liberal opposition will be supporting this motion put forward by the Democrats today. This issue is a very important one that is faced by not only Ms Dundas's constituents in the electorate of Ginninderra but many families around Canberra in all of our electorates. Children have a right not only to an education made possible through the free government education provided in the ACT and around Australia but also to experience as much as they possibly can throughout their education.
Having an enriching and enlightening educational experience also includes being able to participate in school excursions, camps and subjects with levies attached to them. Often families, for whatever reason, may not be able to pay even the most minimal amount attached to additional school activities. This must not mean that the students, through no fault of their own, miss out on the experience that they have a right to. Often these additional school activities are the most enjoyable and educational for students and inspire them to continue their education. Also, these school activities may expose the students to things that they may not be able to participate in or experience at any other time through any other means.
There are questions, though, as to how Ms Dundas's proposal can be properly implemented and what the financial implications might be. However, Ms Dundas raises many valuable points in her speech and motion. It is true that the charges are considered to be voluntary in theory, but we have all heard of cases from our constituents where their child was not allowed to go on a camp or excursion, or a payment was requested from the parent by the school, particularly if that activity required certain overheads to be paid. It is also true that in certain cases a child is not permitted by the school to participate in certain subjects that have an attached fee for additional materials. That in itself is a great shame. We should not be restricting the rights of students and the choices offered to them to fulfil their potential simply because they may not have the money to spend on a particular course or a particular subject.
Schools have no right to remove the right of education from a child because their parents cannot afford to pay any additional fees or levies. It is not just a matter of the financial burden on parents; it is also the fact that children miss out on opportunities to enrich their education. When children are not able to go on school excursions or camps, they miss out on the critical bonding that occurs in such activities, being able to get to know their fellow students and their teachers outside the structured and traditional learning environment of the classroom. And, of course, a poor kid whose parents cannot afford those things or who is relegated to a B grade activity because they cannot afford them attracts a certain stigma. If we expect our kids to be able to bond with their classmates, we must ensure that we remove those sorts of impediments, children being what children are.