Page 3974 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 20 September 2017

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Primary School to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youths to complete their education. It has run successfully for six years with one-off funding from the federal government’s Indigenous advancement strategy but has attracted no support from your government and will close at the end of this year. Have you met with the leader of the program to discuss its future?

MS BERRY: No, I have not had a chance to meet with the coordinator of that program. I was initially advised through some fairly frustrated and angry tweets from the coordinator of that program about an indication that he had received from the Greens political party before the election last year that they were going to receive some funding. I have never had a conversation with them about that and I do not believe that the Labor Party did leading up to the election.

Because I had been contacted by Mr Bashford via some angry tweets on Twitter, I then got on to my office and said, “What’s going on here? What’s actually happening with this program?” The Education Directorate has never funded this program. We have attempted to meet with Mr Bashford. Initially he refused to meet with us. I understand that he is still having conversations with the Education Directorate, and we are trying to find a way forward. There are a number of programs that operate within our schools that are particularly targeted at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. I would be happy to continue to engage with Mr Bashford if he were keen to engage with my office in a way other than via angry tweets over Twitter.

MR MILLIGAN: Minister, what will you do to ensure that the program continues?

MS BERRY: There has never been a commitment for funding for that program.

MRS KIKKERT: Minister, what will you do to support these students when the program closes at the end of this year?

MS BERRY: As I said, a number of programs have been operating in ACT schools for a number of years, including Ngunnawal culture programs that will be funded by the ACT government over the next couple of years. That operates across 15 schools, I understand. I also visited an after school program at Forrest, which is a program run by the Forrest Primary School community, the parents and children at that school, to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to ensure that they are getting the same kinds of support that other children have, or more if they need it because of the different circumstances they are growing up with.

I will continue to invite Mr Bashford and the solids program to engage with the Education Directorate about the program, but the Education Directorate has never funded that program. I have never had the chance to have a conversation face to face with Mr Bashford about that program. At the moment, there is no funding to provide additional funding or to replace funding that has finished under the federal government.

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