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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 4395 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

the minister for again bringing this report so that we can have the debate and can continue to monitor how things are going for indigenous children in our schools.

MS TUCKER (11.41): I will make some comments on this latest report on what is happening for indigenous kids in our schools system. There are some really good examples in this report of what can work. I was interested to see the case study of a young boy whose attendance and work performance at school-or his attendance, at least-was good once he became involved in creating a symbol of the traditional owners at the front of the school and was engaged at that level and respected at that level. He had 100 per cent attendance, and he had a great year at school. You can see examples of positive work occurring within our public schools, and I think that they need to be commended for that.

I am still concerned when I read about the indigenous education compact. When that first came out and I asked about it around Canberra's indigenous peoples, the majority of them did not know what it was and had not heard of it. Some of the chief service providers had also not heard about it. Winnunga had not heard about it. It is very concerning if you have a compact that suggests that it is an agreed compact between indigenous parents and families in the ACT when, in fact, it is not. It is a big ask for there to be any document that represents the view of all indigenous families.

I do not have the compact with me, but I recall the wording. It was something like, "We, the indigenous families of the ACT"-or of Canberra-"commit to understanding that we need to send our kids to school. We have confidence in the ACT department of education."I remember that bit because I remember thinking, "That's not true. How interesting that all the Aboriginal families in Canberra had said that."Then I did some more consultation: many of the Aboriginal families had no idea.

I think that is a problem because we want to connect with Aboriginal families, and you can alienate people by producing a document like that. While I understand that the idea of it was to make that connection, which I support, I do not think it was the right way to do it. It can be quite problematic to have that kind of broad statement, which can alienate people who were not engaged in it to begin with. It had an element of mutual obligation in it, which I also felt uncomfortable with to a degree.

It is more complex than saying, "We will make sure our kids attend school."You cannot get a commitment from people to do something like that unless you have the supports in place for them to be in a position to ensure that their kids go to school. That can be because they are feeling empowered, their kids like the experience and it is working for them, they have a house, they are not homeless and they are not in overcrowded conditions.

Once again, there is an expectation that I think is unrealistic and almost insulting to people in the community. I am not saying that we should not be aiming for a situation where we connect with indigenous peoples and other groups, such as Torres Strait Island people. Pacific Island people are also a minority here, and I know that the minister is interested in them and has been talking to representatives of that community about their situation in the schools as well. But I do not feel comfortable about the way that compact was written or the process which led up to its declaration by the government.

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