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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 March 2010) . . Page.. 902 ..

So, in conclusion, I again thank Mr Smyth for raising this matter of public importance today and note the importance of Catholic Schools Week. I look forward tomorrow morning to attending, on behalf of the government and the Chief Minister, at St Michael’s primary school the community breakfast and open day. I want to reiterate the government’s view that Catholic education has a vital role to play in Canberra to provide excellent education for all the children who choose to learn in our Catholic schools.

It is why the ACT Labor government will continue to work with our Catholic schools to deliver great results for all students through support for teaching and learning, through implementing the progressive national agenda and through record funding and support. I end where I began: as minister for education I am the minister for all students in all schools. I hope that, through today’s matter of public importance, we have seen that the old public versus private debate is over, and I certainly hope that a new debate can begin—that is, how we get the best education outcomes for all students in all schools.

MS LE COUTEUR (Molonglo) (4.11): The ACT Greens are pleased to speak to this MPI. I thank Mr Smyth for bringing it forward. I basically agree with most of the sentiments that have been expressed by the two previous speakers; so my contribution will be relatively brief.

The first thing I wanted to touch on was the motto of Catholic Schools Week: “open your minds, open your hearts”. I think it is an absolutely wonderful motto and it is one which we should probably adopt more in this place. “Open your minds”; we often talk about the same things over and over again without actually letting any new ideas in. And “open your hearts”; as leaders in our community, this is something that it is essential that we do.

The Legislative Assembly and the government have a big part to play in the life of our community. All of us need to open our hearts to our fellow MLAs and to the rest of our community. I think that is a wonderful motto of Catholic Schools Week and I thank Mr Smyth for reminding us of it.

As Mr Smyth said, this is Catholic Schools Week. It is a very important week for the 27 Catholic schools in the ACT together with the other Catholic schools in Australia as they celebrate this week. The Greens would like very much to acknowledge the valuable contribution these schools make for the 27 per cent of ACT students who attend them. They do this through their well-qualified and professional teachers who help cater for the range of learning needs of our students.

Of course, the Catholic schools cover the same basic curriculum as government schools, although in some cases there are broader curriculums in terms of after-school activities which enable students to explore a different range of interests and abilities. One of the things that have happened in more recent years is that many students at Catholic schools are not Catholic. That is a tribute to the quality of the Catholic schools.

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