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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 10 (19 October) . . Page.. 3302..


Schools—student numbers

MS PORTER: My question is to the Minister for Education and Training. The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently released data on birth rates in the ACT over the last five years. Minister, can you please inform the Assembly what these and other demographic data show and how this impacts on our education system.

MR BARR: I thank Ms Porter for her question. The new ABS data shows that the ACT has the lowest fertility rate in the country. Birth rates have averaged 4,170 per year over the last decade. In 2005 the figure was 4,206 births, up from 4,174 in 2004. However, this was well down from the 4,415 births recorded in 1995 and we know that it is well below the birth rates experienced in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, when our education system was designed and Canberra was undergoing periods of significant growth.

The ACT is experiencing a demographic shift. Our population is ageing and there are fewer people aged under 15 in the territory. Figures released by the ABS earlier this year show that over the last three decades the ACT has experienced a steady decline in the proportion of the population aged under 15 and a steady increase in the proportion aged 65 and over. In fact, since 1995 the number of children aged under 15 has decreased by eight per cent, from 67,800 to 62,400, whilst at the same time the population aged 65 years and over has increased by a whopping 451/2 per cent from 21,500 to 3l,300. We have also seen a similar increase in the population aged 85 and over.

In addition to this data, in August 2006 the ABS released school age population figures. That data shows a decline in school age population in recent years. Again, between 1996 and 2005 the number of primary school age children in the ACT decreased by eight per cent. There have been regional variances across the city, with the greatest decreases occurring in Kambah, Wanniassa, Chisholm, Kaleen and Monash. But there have been increases in the developing areas of Nicholls, Ngunnawal, Amaroo and Dunlop.

Overall, there has been a five per cent decrease in the high school and college age population. Again, we have seen regional variances, with the largest decreases occurring in Kambah, Yarralumla, Weston Creek, Wanniassa and Weston, yet we have recorded increases in Acton, Amaroo, Banks and Ainslie.

It is not news to anyone that the ACT is undergoing a demographic shift and that this is creating major challenges. It is a phenomenon that is occurring all over Australia. A recent article in the Australian Planner magazine by Mike Quirk entitled "Challenges of demographic change in Canberra"discusses some of these issues and notes that the ACT is experiencing an ageing of the population. Mr Quirk notes that the peak populations attained following the initial settlement of towns are extremely unlikely to be reached again and that this is a direct result of lower fertility rates and the different demographic profile of people moving into suburbs. He notes about some suburbs:

The regeneration taking place will not result in the same level of use of facilities that occurred when the suburbs were first settled.

Mr Quirk cites Woden, Weston Creek and Belconnen as current examples and also notes that Tuggeranong will replicate this experience as it ages. He goes on to say that, despite


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