Page 1503 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 1 June 2022

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education in this place, I will start by talking up our public schools, and talking about how proud I am of ACT schools—how proud I am of every single public schoolteacher and school staff, and how proud I am of all of our school communities.

They have done an incredible job over the last couple of years, which have been difficult for everyone. Our teachers have adjusted in ways that we would never have been able to predict. The international COVID health pandemic exists and still continues today. Whilst I understand that the opposition does not think that it even existed in the past, it still continues, and it is still exacerbating and causing concern across our community. Our schools in the ACT have not been immune from the impact of COVID-19 and the pandemic that we have been facing.

In celebrating our public schools, I would like to give a shout-out to the Australian Education Union and their public schools awards which were held on Friday night of last week. I begin by congratulating Zuzette Fahey, the winner of the reconciliation award, which was presented by Patrick Judge, the secretary of the Australian Education Union. I presented Kirsty McGovern-Hooley with the award of friend of public education, and Lorelei Choy was presented with the advocate of the year award by the national secretary of the AEU. It was a wonderful celebration of our public schoolteachers after such a difficult time, and a time of not being able to get together and celebrate our wonderful public school community. I give a massive shout-out to our schools, to the award winners and to all of the runners-up and people who celebrated on that night and across our schools in the ACT.

I know that Canberrans are incredibly proud of their public education. It is why more Canberra families every year are choosing their local public school. This shows how much the ACT government values its public schools, and that is shown in our budgets, despite what Mr Hanson says.

Last year’s budget saw an additional $51 million invested in education. That number does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars of capital investment in school infrastructure every year. ACT government funding for the school system has grown year on year. Last year’s budget included total expenditure of $1.5 billion on education—20 per cent of total government spending. ACT public schoolteachers are the highest paid in the country, with the last enterprise agreement negotiated with the government voted up by almost 99 per cent of staff.

Mr Assistant Speaker, Mr Hanson will have you believe that funding is being cut to ACT public schools, just because he keeps saying that it is so. The truth is that the ACT government funds above and beyond the Gonski school resourcing standard, meaning that ACT public schools are the best funded in the country, with the exception of the Northern Territory.

I want to be clear that having well-funded schools does not make the ACT immune from the national teacher shortage. We have never denied that. Nor does it mean we have escaped the impact of COVID-19 and the effect that it has had on staff absences. These are real challenges facing ACT schools. It is why the government is working closely with the Education Union, the CPSU and the UWU to ensure that schools can continue to operate safely during this pandemic and support all of our staff with the increased workload that has come with increased absences.

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