Parliamentary Question Time: Secondary Education in Indigenous Schooling, School Funding, Indigenous Rangers Powers
Secondary Education in Indigenous Communities
Mr GUYULA to MINISTER for EDUCATION
What is the government’s policy on secondary education in Indigenous communities? Will it follow the recommendation of the Wilson report and remove secondary education from bush schools, forcing children into government-operated boarding schools, or will it support education for Indigenous students close to their home communities and kinship support?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Nhulunbuy for the question. A little history lesson. One of the things this Labor government was very proud of was our initiative to put secondary education in the bush. That was a policy of ours when we were last in government.
The previous government developed the report about putting Indigenous kids into boarding schools and is something I am concerned about. I believe all parents in the Northern Territory should have a choice. My children made the choice to attend their local high school and do their secondary education in their town. Indigenous children need to have those choices as well.
There will be some children who enjoy going to boarding school for whatever reasons. They may be wanting to play sport and we see that with many of the Tiwi kids. They want to have an opportunity to play AFL football and if those kids want to go to Victoria they need to have those opportunities at a very young age to develop as football players. But that is a small number of students.
One of the things that we went to the election on was the community lead schools: that is about our remote communities developing school boards and then having input and a say on what sort of education they want for their community. If that board is established and they say very strongly that ‘we want these options for that school’ and whether that is around language programs we will work with them around those things.
Member for Nhulunbuy, thank you for the question. It is a great question on education.
Mr GUYULA to MINISTER for EDUCATION
When Labor was last in government I understand the school by school funding equation had a base of 60% attendance. I understand that the last government changed this regime so that there was no bottom calculations made on attendance. Punitive funding arrangements do not allow for schools that will better engage communities in increasing attendance. Minister for Education, will your government now return the 605 bottom line to the school by school funding calculations.
Madam Speaker, I thank the Member for Nhulunbuy for the question. I am heartened to hear that you have such a strong interest in education in the Territory and I am also very keen to provide that opportunity for us to have longer conversation rather than just these three minute replies of mine.
We do know attendance is such a critical issue in out remote schools; the facts are that children need to go to school and they need to go to school regularly. It is of great concern to me; I was just reading a briefing to see that in the department’s annual report that attendance across the Territory had actually gone backwards by 0.8% in the last 12 months. That upsets me; I know the previous government and Minister Chandler were very focused on attendance. It is something that is absolutely crucial if we are to make changes in education. The issue around funding for schools is one that this government has looked at very closely because, yes, there have been cuts to education.
We are putting $20 m back which will see increases in all school budgets; schools have those global budgets and schools will be able to increase either the teachers they have; or they may choose to put on counsellors or teacher assistants. There does need to be attendance but there also does need to be some increases in the funding of schools because they have been substantially cut. Your figure of 60%—I think that is the average of a lot of our remote community schools; but one of the things we are bringing back is that buffer of about 10% around the attendance figures. T
here are times—often in preschools, even in our urban schools—that for whatever reason; sometimes when little ones start schools they get sick. Even in our urban schools we sometimes see low attendance figures in preschool because the children stay home; that affects their funding as well; it is the exact situation you speak about, that schools then cannot afford to put on the extra programs or they are concerned about the funding they have. Member for Nhulunbuy, I am very happy to meet with you to talk in more detail about these issues because getting things right in the bush is vital to making improvements across the Territory. This week I was briefed by MacKenzie who has done some good research in how we move our schools from fair to good and from good to great. The results in the Territory continue to be of great concern to me.
Indigenous Ranger Programs
Mr GUYULA to MINISTER for NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
In line with Labor’s election promises, can you outline the new powers that the government will give to Indigenous rangers to look after their country? In line with Labor’s election, can you now commit to more detail to extra funding of resources to Indigenous rangers and if you will; what, when and how will these extras be provided?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his question. I have spoken a lot about our commitments to Indigenous rangers and the Indigenous Rangers program through my Address in Reply and many other times in this House. We have around 40 Indigenous ranger groups across the Northern Territory. I know many members of very aware of the important work they do and have seen much of the work they do in the protection of our land and sea country.
We have committed to ensuring there is a change to the Act to make sure we look at their ability and powers around enforcement, rescue and a range of other areas. This is something we have to work through with local Indigenous rangers groups as well. That work is under way. I am more than happy, Member for Nhulunbuy, to keep you informed of that work as that continues as well because the consultation and involvement of those local groups will be imperative to making sure we get those legislative right in giving them the powers not only to have greater enforcement over the activities they do but in making sure we are appropriately training Indigenous ranger groups to be able to be able to do those additional activities.
I am happy to keep you informed as that work continues. The other area we are looking is making sure there is investment in equipment, things like being able to access vehicles and communications equipment that will help them to undertake their everyday activities, which are a range of things from weed management—which we know is incredibly important in the Northern Territory—feral animal management, fire abatement—they are doing a huge amount of things. We want to make sure we support them in their role.
We have a number of really important commitments around that and, as I said, I am more than happy to keep you informed as we work through that with local Indigenous ranger groups.