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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 4393 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

speakers have written about this program a number of times in terms of nationwide strategies and its fundamental importance as a strategy. Again, this report does not analyse this-another important benchmark in indigenous education.

The report lays out the conceptual framework of the action plan, and it looks pretty impressive on paper. The principles espoused therein seem to tick all the right boxes. (Extension of time granted.) Again, I ask the minister to guard himself against attractive reports, such as this, from departments, which might seem to many in the community to be not much more than statistically endowed salesmanship brochures. While too many reports coming out of government in the last two years have fitted this bill, I trust this one will not, too, go that way. It is a good report but, as I was saying earlier, we want to see more introspection in these reports and we do not want these reports to be simply salesmanship documents. They need to tell us more than that.

The reason I raise this is that I see a range of impressive and mainly useful statistics but, as detailed above in the numerous examples I have given, I see little in the way of bold statements illustrating outcomes, strategies to deal with problems, identification of where the department is failing to achieve certain objectives or solutions proposed for rectifying the weaknesses in the policy encountered.

That worries me; it is a bad sign. Introspection, open and constructive self-criticism and a means of offering positive solution options to the minister so that she can make decisions are healthy corporate values. Surely that is what these reports are supposed to do; otherwise, they simply leave themselves open to be criticised as propaganda sheets.

To be fair to the government, this problem with education reports pre-dates this government. The reports over the last five-odd years are all a bit the same: a bit bland. They do not really dig in or analyse how things are working or not working and then present solutions, or at least recommendations, for ministerial decision making.

Now is the time to tighten up, and I ask the minister to see whether she can get a bit more oomph out of this report as well. I look forward to seeing the next report. Otherwise, I think that this is a useful report. More importantly, I wish all the best to those schools with a significant indigenous program in place, and I call upon the government to do everything possible to support those schools with those programs.

MS DUNDAS (11.35): I will briefly discuss this paper. It is important that the Assembly took the decision they did in May 2000 to have these reports continually tabled in the Assembly so that the issue of how we help indigenous kids in our schools is always on the agenda and so that we have a regular debate on how things are progressing. There are a number of issues we would like to see regular reports on. What has been happening with the reporting mechanism in indigenous education is a good standard, and we should look at expanding it into a number of other areas.

There are a few issues that grab my eye in this sixth report, indicating how things are going and what more needs to be done. On page 11, which talks about absenteeism, the statistics for indigenous students are quite alarming, especially for how they increase from term 1 to term 4. To quote from the report, "In 2002 absenteeism for indigenous students is far greater in term 4 than in term 1."I would like to add that it is far greater for indigenous students than non-indigenous students. It goes on:

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