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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (4 March) . . Page.. 481 ..

Indigenous education

Paper and statement by minister

Debate resumed from 29 August 2002, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

MR PRATT (4.35): I welcome this six monthly report. I have little issue at all with the Chief Minister's statement on the paper. The government is continuing a program that has been in place for some time and is pretty well proven.

The trend lines in the report have not changed too much compared to the previous report. The gap between indigenous and non-indigenous literacy and numeracy performances has not changed from the previous report. My best examination of section 2 of the table confirms the observations I made in my response to the previous report. It is at least satisfactory that performance levels in indigenous literacy and numeracy have not declined. Some improvements in standards in those two areas of education have certainly been made.

I welcome the plan the department have put in place, as detailed in the report, addressing performance, particularly focusing on the poorer performances for year 5. My great concern-and I would imagine this would be the concern of most of us in this place-is that year 5 is a time when a lot of our children, particularly boys, indigenous and non-indigenous, disengage from core learning and participation in school activities.

This, therefore, is a vulnerable area in indigenous education that needs close attention. I hope the department plan takes a multifunctional approach to tackling year 5 learning. For example, consultation between the department and year 5 students' families will be very important.

I go back to comments I made on the previous report. They are still very relevant now. I continue to stress that I believe that this report should also make observations on the department's success or otherwise in connecting with and staying connected with indigenous families with respect to their children's education progress. This, I believe, is axiomatic for indigenous children, particularly children at risk. This is a principle that should also apply to children at risk in non-indigenous families and from non-indigenous backgrounds.

Such indigenous commentators as Pearson and Dobbs have stressed the need for government departments and communities to maintain close and positive contacts with indigenous families in respect of youth affairs and educational issues.

I believe that this report is quite a useful one. I also believe that the six monthly reporting system is commendable. It is a valuable tool in one of our more sensitive and more vulnerable areas of ACT education. As the Chief Minister said earlier today, it is baffling that in the ACT we have the same negative standards in indigenous affairs pro rata as other less well served and perhaps less than pristine jurisdictions.

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