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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4115 ..

MR PRATT: Mr Speaker I seek leave to make a statement in relation to this report.

Leave granted.

MR PRATT: Mr Speaker, I rise to say that I think that, generally speaking, this is a fairly good report and we welcome the indications that have been reported there, but I would make a couple of points. I do not think too much needs to be made of the declining standards in year 5, as is reported quite clearly in this report. The gap between indigenous and non-indigenous children, for the most part, is narrowing. That is a welcome sign and a positive sign that perhaps we should dwell upon. But I would urge the department to monitor more closely the progress of that particular cohort group, that is, the reported year 5 class. Let's see how they perform at the next report.

I would like to make the observation that I believe that a very important activity is not being qualitatively reported upon in this report, that is, the issue of the indigenous education compact which is handed out to parents and the encouragement and involvement of those parents in schooling activities. I believe that the Assembly and the community need to know how successful the department and the schools are in developing this vital connection.

Parental involvement is a strong requirement in the endeavour to strengthen indigenous education. It is a fundamental part of getting our indigenous students completely included within the community and of encouraging them to move on to stronger endeavours. Let me quote a man whom I believe is one of this country's most credible spokesmen on indigenous affairs, one who has demonstrated a strong interest in youth affairs. I talk of Noel Pearson, who stated the following in a recent report:

... we need to engage Aboriginal parents in the education system.

Parental and wider family involvement in the education system in the communities is an area that is ripe for new ideas and new approaches.

He is perhaps speaking about more isolated communities, but I do think that these concepts can be applied in the ACT. Noel went on to say:

Making the school a focal point for the community, through the involvement of community members and the development of adult education programs, would underscore the primary importance of education for the future of the community. It would boost children and attach value to education, both for children and their parents.

There is a man who quite knows the challenges posed by this vexed issue of getting our indigenous children back to the levels they ought to be on and closing the gaps much more tightly. Indeed, Mr Speaker, perhaps this model could be applied across the ACT community to all children at risk, non-indigenous as well as indigenous, providing the ability to engage and connect with their parents and get their parents involved in the schooling system. In conclusion, while I think the report is generally fine, I would like to see more qualitative reporting on other fundamental issues, particularly the issue I have raised this afternoon of the ability of the education department and its schools to successfully engage with indigenous parents.

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