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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 March 2010) . . Page.. 898 ..

are also dedicated to improving the lot of the other independent schools and all of the government schools. Proposing this MPI should not be seen as or taken to be to the detriment of the other sectors or as putting one sector over the other. It is just an important week that happens to be occurring this week while we are sitting and I would simply like to compliment all the staff, and particularly the teachers, in the Catholic education system, as indeed we would compliment all of the staff and all of the teachers that look after any student in the ACT, no matter what school they are in or where they go to school.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation and Minister for Gaming and Racing) (3.56): I thank Mr Smyth for raising this matter today. The government’s fundamental view on the role of Catholic education is simple—that is, to provide excellent education for all of the children who choose to learn in our Catholic schools. As I have said in this place many times, the old public versus private debate in education is over, and I reiterate that, as minister for education, I am the minister for all students in all schools.

This government’s vision for our Catholic schools can be stated in four words: fair funding, full independence. That is it summed up. The British historian R H Tawney famously wrote:

Opportunities to rise are [no] substitute for a general diffusion of the means of civilisation.

I think it is fair to say that the unique virtue of education is that it abolishes this trade-off. Great education provides fairness for all and opportunity for those who take it. Catholic education in Australia has done this from its first days. The successful transition of Australia’s Catholic community from an immigrant underclass to a leading role in our society is due, above all, to the success of Catholic education.

I am reliably informed that Australia’s first Catholic saint, Mary MacKillop, was, indeed, a Catholic educator, and some say that the unofficial motto of her order of nuns is “To teach the poor and fight the bishops”. So this is a most welcome opportunity to discuss what is a very real matter of public importance—the role of Catholic education in the ACT.

In the public and political debates about funding, safety, websites and work conditions, we must never lose site of the most important work of schools—that is, teaching and learning. I am delighted in the many ways in which the ACT government is able to support our Catholic schools in teaching and learning.

The most significant change to the way that we teach and learn in ACT schools in recent years has been the development and implementation of the new curriculum, every chance to learn. This profoundly important piece of work has changed what students learn in our schools. Under every chance to learn, we have ensured that all Canberra children, from preschool to year 10, have a consistent curriculum framework—that is, all children in all schools. This is a huge step forward and certainly could not have happened without the significant cooperation of all school sectors, including Catholic schools.

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