I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation; the traditional custodians of Tubowgule, the land on which the Opera House stands, and I pay my respects to their elders, past, present, and emerging.
I’m sorry I can’t be there in person tonight. Instead, I’m beaming in from Ngunnawal country here in Canberra, but I wanted to thank you, and celebrate your success tonight.
I again commit the government that I am so proud to be a part of, to the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.
I want to thank everybody at the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation for everything that you do, and everything that you have done over the last 14 years. Thank you to Andrew, to Michelle, Renee and Warren, Carlie, Rob, Greg, Emily, Helen, and the whole entire team.
The work you do is changing lives, and we celebrate some of those lives tonight. Congratulations to the graduates of this year, but also of last year and the year before, who are here tonight and had their graduation mucked up by COVID.
Your achievements are truly incredible.
But we’ve still got a lot more work to do. The awful fact is that if you’re an Indigenous boy or girl, you’re less likely to go to pre-school, less likely to finish school, and less likely to go to university than other Australians.
And what’s even more disappointing is that the data we’ve seen in the last few weeks shows the readiness of indigenous kids to start school is actually going backwards. It’s the first time that we’ve seen this since the tracking of this data began.
And the gap grows, with every year of education. The gap in preschool attendance is about 11 per cent, the gap in completion of year 12 is about 25 per cent, and the gap for young people with a university degree is more than 30 per cent.
We’ve got to fix this.
I don’t want us to be a country where your opportunities in life depend on your postcode, your parents, or the colour of your skin. But if we’re honest with ourselves, that’s where we are today.
The work we do together is an important part of turning this around.
So once again, thank you for everything that you do.
Just think about this. Over half of the foundation’s alumni are either graduates of tertiary study or currently on their way to doing so.
That’s lives changed. Lives change before our eyes.
Paul Keating used to say a good education was like having the “keys to the kingdom”. That master key that unlocked every door, all the opportunities of life, the hard work of everyone here from the team at the foundation to teachers, to teachers, mentors, and students.
The work you do collectively is opening doors that would have otherwise stayed locked.
Congratulations on all your hard work, and may it continue to open doors now and into the future.