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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2012 Week 4 Hansard (29 March) . . Page.. 1500..

social or cultural right. The government is committed to a step-by-step approach in realising this right, an approach that will ensure that the ACT continues to benefit from a coherent and principled human rights framework.

The right to education is found within article 13 of the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights. The right to education is fundamental to the full enjoyment of many other rights which we have already recognised in the Human Rights Act, such as the right to vote and the right to participate in public life.

Education is essential to gaining and sustaining meaningful employment which is crucial not only to ensure that individuals can fulfil their individual right to housing, food and health, but also in the development of the community as a whole. As the United Nations general comment 13 states:

Education is both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights. As an empowerment right, education is the primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities. Education has a vital role in empowering women, safeguarding children from exploitative and hazardous labour and sexual exploitation, promoting human rights and democracy, protecting the environment, and controlling population growth. Increasingly, education is recognized as one of the best financial investments States can make. But the importance of education is not just practical: a well-educated, enlightened and active mind, able to wander freely and widely, is one of the joys and rewards of human existence.

The scope of the right is well defined within international law and, when included in the Human Rights Act, will require the government to continue to provide free, high quality, primary school education to all children living in the territory.

Recognition of the right to education also means that the government must continue to provide education options for all people living in the territory and maintain the high quality of education currently provided.

Education must be provided in a way that does not discriminate, facilitating greater access to the opportunities education provides for people from all backgrounds.

Inclusion of the right to education does not mean the government has to provide free education to every person in the ACT or to provide free books, uniforms and excursions for every student in public schools. Recognition of the right to education instead ensures access to education without any discrimination that prevents that access.

This means all children can attend primary school and others in our community can access further education and vocational training or continuing training, the key to opportunities for any individual to improve his or her quality of life. It also affirms the right of parents or guardians to choose schooling for their children which is consistent with their religious or moral convictions, provided this schooling is of an appropriate standard.

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