Delivering better education and student outcomes

16 August 2017

Check against delivery


Thank you Madam Speaker.

I rise today to move the motion standing in my name on the notice paper relating to the importance of school education.


Education plays an integral role in providing Canberrans with a more inclusive city that supports lifelong learning and gainful employment.

It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to move this motion today, myself being a product of the ACT public school system.

Madam Speaker, being a student at Lyneham High School taught me so many of the values I hold dear today, values that I hope to reflect in representing the people of Yerrabi.

The Lyneham High School community is committed to Care, Quality, and Creativity.

These values played no small part in my path to politics.

Working at the Department of Infrastructure I recognised the importance of caring for my colleagues and took up a position as a CPSU delegate representing their rights at work.

When the project team I was working in was dissolved, I realised how much I had valued the quality of the work we produced. So strongly in fact that I joined the ALP to fight against similar outcomes.

And the creative environment I was lucky enough to learn in no doubt contributed to me seeking to find new ways to make better use of public space as an urban planner and now an MLA.

Madam Speaker, I owe much of who I am and where I am to the education I received from ACT Government Schools, and so I seek to move this motion today in support of this Government’s ongoing commitment to ensuring more Canberrans can enjoy the opportunities I have been lucky enough to experience.

Schools play a key role in the broader community.

Many of our public schools in the ACT act as hubs for multicultural, sporting and community groups.

Recognising the important role our public schools play in our suburbs, the ACT Budget delivers on our commitment to invest $85 million in upgrading and expanding classrooms and facilities.

This funding will ensure Canberra’s public school facilities keep providing great infrastructure and services, not just to our students and staff, but to local residents and community groups.

The ACT Labor Government is also investing in Gungahlin school facilities in response to growing demand.

Public school enrolments in the north of Canberra have grown by 53 per cent over the last five years.

With Gungahlin playing host to some of the fastest growing suburbs in the country, this trend is set to continue.

The ACT Government will provide $26.2 million in funding to schools in Gungahlin to expand their capacity.

The Budget provides funding to Harrison School, Gold Creek School, Neville Bonner Primary School and Palmerston District Primary School.

In addition, the new school proposed for North Gungahlin will now include a community use oval, continuing our commitment to the role schools play in the community.

The Government will also continue to consider sites for a new school in East Gungahlin.

Of course, it is not just the schools themselves, but the teachers and staff that provide support for our local communities.

In the ACT, our teachers are some of the best educated and most capable in the country.

Cara is an Aboriginal/Welsh educator and a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation from Dubbo.

Cara worked at the Wanniassa School until last year as an Executive Teacher where, among other things, she taught Languages and Indigenous studies.

During her time at the school, Cara sought to align the school’s strategic plan with a vision to improve engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to provide better educational outcomes and future pathways.

Cara achieved this by working with Indigenous students, their families, and educators to develop a culturally sensitive curriculum and stronger understanding within the school’s community.

Throughout her time at the school, Cara displayed an enduring commitment to establishing relationships with all students she worked with, allowing her to successfully teach and mentor the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at Wanniassa, other schools and the broader community.

Now at Campbell High, Cara has continued this work, opening an Indigenous Education Centre, which she hopes will serve as a resource for other schools in Canberra.

The Centre incorporates a mix of philosophies, allowing for different approaches for different children depending on their needs.

Cara’s continued efforts in Indigenous education are driven by what she identifies as a need to find Aboriginal ways of learning that are culturally relevant to Aboriginal children.

I was recently fortunate enough to attend the ACT Branch of the Australian Education Union’s annual awards night, where a number of local teachers were honoured.

At the AEU awards, Cara Shipp received the Reconciliation award, awarded each year to a branch member who has worked to further the aims of Reconciliation in their work in education.

This commitment has led her to reach out beyond her teaching commitments, maintaining a blog about incorporating Indigenous perspectives into education and regularly presenting workshops and professional development sessions for educators and policy makers.

Cara’s story is one that reflects the inclusive city we live in, and the support this Budget offers culturally-specific initiatives for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander outcomes.

Madam Speaker, the importance of a child’s education cannot be overstated.

It might well be more important today than ever before.

The global economy is already well entrenched in a sustained phase of great uncertainty and disruption.

While this may seem daunting, at the same time, this offers unprecedented potential.

Children starting school today will face a very different world when they graduate.

Many of the occupations our children will be employed in may not even have been imagined today.

As we continue to realise the seemingly infinite possibilities created by human innovation, ever growing data capacity, and high speed internet, our existing societal and economic constructs face greater and ever changing challenges.

Robotics, algorithms and apps have already replaced a number of jobs our parents and grandparents once held.

This trend will only continue, presenting a growing challenge for our policy makers, workers and investors in responding to the unknown.

The decisions we make today in this Chamber will have ongoing consequences for whether our children can adapt to our constantly changing technologies and can access well‑paid, secure work.

In meeting these needs, the best tool we can provide our future workers with is the capacity to undertake lifelong learning.

This means a commitment to education that spans from the early learning years, right through to access to quality re-skilling education and training later in life.

The ACT Government will continue to work on achieving the best outcomes for students of all ages, regardless of their background or circumstance.

This Budget delivers on that commitment, offering $3.5 million in the pursuit of continued high quality education to all students.

Part of this funding will support the ACT Government’s Future of Education process.

Never complacent, the ACT Government has committed to looks at ways we can further improve our school and early learning education experiences.

This budget delivers $500,000 to support the important engagement with the ACT community in how we can progress education attainment.

Our teachers are our most important resource in equipping our children for the future.

This Government recognises this better than most.

That is why the ACT Budget provides funding for 3,649 teachers to educate our 46,557 students.

This means there will be one teacher for every 12.7 students in the ACT, one of the lowest teacher to student ratios in the country.

This ratio is crucial.

In the recent Programme for International Student Assessment results, Estonia, a country whose GDP per capita ranks 29th of 34 OECD countries, topped Europe, coming in fifth internationally.

It’s been noted this improvement is partly due to the ratio of students to teachers in Estonian schools falling from 20 students per teacher to 12 over the past two decades.

The significance of this should not be lost, as it clearly illustrates the need for the ACT to continue to invest in our teachers to ensure we continue to enable our students reach their potential.

As well as needing to teach students the skills they will need in the job market, it cannot be forgotten the vital role our schools play in teaching life skills.

It is in the classroom and playground where we learn to interact with one another, use our inside voice and respect one another for who we are.

Growing up alongside others culturally diverse from us offers greater understanding and acceptance of our differences.

This lesson on social diversity is one of the great virtues of a public school education.

Across Canberra, we see students from a wide array of backgrounds learn side by side in our public schools.

This is no more so than in my electorate of Yerrabi, which is the most culturally diverse in the ACT.

With families from more than 40 different cultures, including China, the Philippines, India, Korea, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, the electorate is a rich tapestry of multiculturalism.

Diversity in schools isn’t just something to feel good about.

It has real benefits for students and their families.

Socio-economic and racial and gender diversity have been shown to be beneficial for student results and social understanding.

Also we cannot ignore the commitment our teachers make to our students.

At the 2016 AEU teachers awards, the AEU recognised two proud Canberra teachers for their lifelong pledge to promoting public education in their schools and the wider community.

Heather and Andy Wardrop joined the AEU at the very beginning of their teaching careers on the same day in 1976.

Seemingly destined for one another, their AEU membership numbers end with 21 and 22.

Throughout their careers, their commitment to educating young Australians from every background has not wavered.

They each live and breathe the values of public education, so much so, that in each other they found their soul mate.

Having contributed 83 years of loyal service to public education in the Territory, Heather and Andy have maintained a strong commitment to ensuring their colleagues and students receive the best outcomes possible.

In their commitment to public education, the Wardrops exemplify the significant contribution our teachers make to a better Canberra.

This ACT Government is committed to ensuring every Canberran has access to an education in a safe and encouraging environment.

Your sexuality or how you identify should not act as a barrier to education.

I have already stood in this Chamber to record how proud I am to be an elected representative in the most LGBTIQ inclusive city in Australia.

Today, I am proud to stand in solidarity with my colleagues in support of the ACT Labor Government’s commitment to an inclusive school environment and our continued funding of the Safe Schools program.

This Budget delivers $400,000 to support our school communities in ensuring everyone in our community is treated with respect and dignity and are able to participate in society regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

This continues the work already undertaken by the ACT Labor Government in ensuring our LGBTIQ community is supported, including the creation of the Office of LGBTIQ affairs and the implementation of laws which remove discrimination and recognise the love shared by all Canberrans.

In addition, this budget commits us to hiring five more school psychologists to ensure our students are receiving the mental health services they need.

The impact bullying and mental health have on a student’s education cannot be ignored, and I am proud to be a part of a government taking this step in the interests of the well-being of students everywhere in this city.

As a member of the ACT Labor Government I commend our record in providing ACT students with a pathway to employment, inclusion and lifelong learning.

I believe this Budget delivers on the promises we have made to the ACT and offers a path forward for better student outcomes and I urge all Members to support it.