Page 3072 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005

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We are working hard to improve literacy and numeracy for indigenous children. Our aim is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people to achieve similar results to the rest of the population. There is enough data for us to know that this is not happening across the board in terms of school retention rates, absenteeism, poor literacy and numeracy attainment. We know, for example, that by year 9, at the end of their compulsory education, many more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students than non-indigenous students at government schools have not reached the literacy standard expected of their age.

For numeracy, the gap is not as great, with four in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at government schools reaching the standard. The most recent report to the Assembly on performance in indigenous education again confirms that the percentage of indigenous students performing at or above the national benchmarks in reading and numeracy continues to be a low percentage for other students. Absenteeism, too, remains a concern but I am pleased to report that we are making some progress. The recently released year 3 ACT assessment program results show a significant improvement in the number of students reaching year 3 literacy and numeracy national benchmarks. In year 3 reading and writing, the proportion of indigenous students above the benchmark, for the first time, equalled that of non-indigenous students.

We are committing, through the community inclusion board, to ending the exclusion suffered by many indigenous people in our community. Programs funded through the community inclusion fund include On Track, a program for indigenous boys and girls at Birrigai. This program will provide indigenous primary school-aged students at Birrigai Outdoor School with an alternative approach in a positive and supportive outdoor environment. The fund is also supporting the Gugan Gulwan education support program, which will employ a qualified teacher two days per week to provide an innovative and culturally appropriate education program for indigenous high school students who have left, or are at risk of leaving, the high school system early.

We have allocated more than half a million dollars to employ outreach workers to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are experiencing problems relating to drugs and alcohol. We are spending $100,000 on a feasibility study to assess the viability of an ACT bush-healing farm, $793,000 on expanding indigenous midwifery access and an additional $830,000 on an ear health program for Aboriginal children. We have handed over the land at Yarramundi Reach to the Burringiri Association—the successful tenderer for the centre’s management. Burringiri officially reopened the cultural centre during NAIDOC week earlier this year.

The cultural centre has an annual operating budget of $120,000 and there is $1.5 million available for capital works in 2004-05. The board of the Burringiri Association is an independent organisation, managed exclusively by Aboriginal people to suit the needs of the Canberra community and is fully responsible, as is appropriate, for the management of that centre. It does resent attempts at suggesting that they are not able or professionally capable of managing the Burringiri Cultural Centre in way that suits the needs of the Canberra people. I think it is significant that not a single advance was made in relation to the establishment of the Burringiri Cultural Centre during the seven years of Liberal government.

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