Questions Without Notice – Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Voice

Mr LIM (Tangney) (14:33): My question is to the Minister for Education. What is the education gap between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians? How will the Voice help to close that gap?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (14:33): I thank the sensational member for Tangney for his question. This year all Australians have a chance to make history, to put our history in our Constitution and to recognise the fact that Australia didn’t begin when Captain Cook arrived but that the Australian story—our story—goes back more than 60,000 years. We have a chance this year to give that history a voice. Why are Indigenous Australians asking us for that voice? To answer that question, imagine this: imagine a life where your brother or your sister dies a decade younger than they should. Imagine a life where your children don’t go to preschool, or where they fall behind at primary school, a life where they will never finish high school. Imagine a life where your children are more likely to go to jail than to university. Just imagine that for a second. That’s not a life that you would cop, but that’s a life that a lot of Indigenous Australians live. If you lived that life, you would know that this is about people, not parking tickets. It’s not about interest rates. This is about things like this.

At the moment, 56 per cent of young children start prep or kindy developmentally ready to start school, but only 34 per cent of young Indigenous kids do. And that number’s getting worse, not better; the gap is getting bigger, not smaller. At the moment, Indigenous Australians are three times more likely to fall behind at school than the other kids in the classroom. At the moment, 82 per cent of students finish high school in Australia, but only 57 per cent of Indigenous kids do. One in two young Australians in their 20s have a uni degree but only seven per cent of young Indigenous Australians do.

We all want this to change. Everyone who is good, fair and decent in this country wants this to change. But if we want it to change, we have to change not just what we do but the way we do things. And that’s what the Voice is about. It’s not me saying that. It’s not us saying that. It’s what Indigenous Australians are saying. They’re asking us to listen, asking to be heard—asking for something that will have no impact on most of us but could just change the lives of a lot of other Australians. As Noel Pearson has said, ultimately, the Voice will demand better results out of school education. If that’s not a reason to vote yes, then I don’t know what is.