Page 2669 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 7 August 2013

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I would like to acknowledge the executive members of Arthritis ACT for the fantastic job they do in keeping this valuable organisation front and centre and active within our community, including their CEO, Ms Helen Krig, and Ms Anna Hackett, their president, as well as all the other valued members of the committee.

I would also like to acknowledge all the other members of our community who volunteer with and donate to Arthritis ACT. And of course you can find out more about that fantastic organisation at It is well worth a look if you have not already done so.


DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (5.27): Last month we celebrated NAIDOC Week. Australians have celebrated NAIDOC since 1975, but it draws upon the Aboriginal civil rights movement of the 1920s and the 1938 day of mourning. NAIDOC Week is a time for Australians to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and achievement.

Achievements in sport, politics, education and the arts are obvious. Indigenous players are vastly over-represented in the player lists of our national sport, AFL, as well as the other major codes. We have Indigenous politicians in our territory, state and federal parliaments, including an Indigenous Chief Minister. Arguably the rest of the world only understands or recognises Australian art through Indigenous art, and in education, for the first time, the proportion of Indigenous students in first-year medical school is the same as the proportion of Indigenous people in the Australian population.

This last result is a stunner. It does not seem possible to have imagined this outcome 50 years ago. But people did, and they put in place the foundations for this success. In the 1960s the National Union of Students launched Abschol, a scholarship program for Aboriginal university students, when there were just a handful in the country. Realising that more needed to be done, the NUS reached out to Indigenous high school students as well.

In 1969 the Gorton government, with Malcolm Fraser as education minister, recognised the policy opportunity, copied the program and renamed it Abstudy. They used the new powers provided by the 1967 referendum enabling the commonwealth to legislate for Aboriginal people. Universities followed suit, introducing scholarship and special entry programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, as well as on-campus support to facilitate Indigenous success.

The outcomes have been magnificent, from less than a dozen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates in the 1960s to 25,000 graduates by 2010. With more time and effort, we can achieve the further 100,000 Indigenous graduates needed to achieve parity with the proportion of non-Indigenous Australians with a university degree. We can imagine a day when every Indigenous child and every non-Indigenous child can look up to an Indigenous teacher at some stage in their schooling.

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