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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 14 Hansard (6 December) . . Page.. 5694..

DR BOURKE: I thank Mr Hargreaves for his supplementary. In 1997 the ACT government established an Indigenous education consultative body. I joined this body because of my commitment to the improvement of educational outcomes for Indigenous children, and I still have this commitment. My priorities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students include increasing their attendance rates and ensuring that their school experiences are positive. I have begun discussions with the directorate in this regard.

In the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students continue to out-perform the mean for Australia in literacy and numeracy, but the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and other students remains. Similarly, in the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students continue to complete year 12 at the highest rate in Australia, but the achievement gap persists. I am pleased to see that there is a trend to increasing retention for ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from year 10 to year 12, but I am concerned that the attendance rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are below those of other students. This is where I want to focus my attention.

MR SPEAKER: A supplementary, Ms Porter.

MS PORTER: Minister, what initiatives are already in place to encourage students from an Indigenous background to progress to university?

DR BOURKE: The ACT government currently provides scholarships to students in years 11 and 12 who wish to progress to university to pursue a career in teaching. It also offers three university scholarships to year 12 graduates to undertake a teaching degree. I have been advised that this year six scholarships have been awarded to students starting year 11 in 2012. This is a total of 11 scholarships to support students with their college education. The scholarship recipients are able to provide a mentoring role to younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and provide them with role models. Three scholarships of $10,000 each have also been awarded to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who are currently involved in teaching degrees at Canberra University. These complement the scholarships available to Indigenous students at the CIT through the Yurrana centre. I plan to encourage other areas to offer similar scholarships.

Mitchell—chemical fire

MR SMYTH: My question is to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. Minister, there were concerns about the process used to promulgate the emergency alerts during the chemical fire emergency in Mitchell in September this year. In a written answer to a question asked of you on 16 November 2011, you said 14 ESA staff and two ACT Policing staff have completed training in the standard operating procedures for emergency alert. You also said that one emergency alert operator was on duty on the night of the incident. Minister, was the emergency alert operator on duty at the ESA headquarters on the night of the Mitchell chemical fire emergency and, if not, where was that operator on duty?

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