Question Without Notice – Indigenous Australian Students and the Voice

Ms ROBERTS (Pearce) (14:35): My question is to the Minister for Education. How will an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice help ensure that no Indigenous Australian students are left behind?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (14:35): I thank my friend the fantastic member for Pearce for her question. Australia is the best country in the world. There are lots of reasons for that, but one of the reasons is that we look out for each other. Think about when there’s a bushfire or when there’s a flood: we get together and we help each other out. Mateship isn’t some kind of made-up national myth. It’s what we do and it’s who we are. We don’t leave our mates behind. But there are a group of Australians who are behind. If you’re a young Indigenous person today, you’re less likely to go to preschool, you’re more likely to fall behind at primary school and you’re more likely to drop out of high school. And, if you’re a young Indigenous bloke today, you’re more likely to go to jail than to university. That’s despite decades of good intentions and billions and billions of dollars that have been invested.

The ‘no’ campaign says you don’t need a voice because all of the answers are here and politicians know best—you can hear some of those noisy ‘no’ voices right now—but that unyielding gap between black and white Australians tells us that’s wrong. If we want things to change then we have to do more than just change what we do. We have to change the way we do things. That’s what the Voice is about. It starts with recognition—recognising the fact that Australia didn’t start when Captain Cook got here. It’s about listening. This is an advisory committee. When you listen to people, you get better results and you get a better use of taxpayers’ money.

I said a moment ago that, if you’re a young Indigenous bloke, you’re more likely to go to jail than uni. It costs taxpayers, on average, $11,000 every year to send an Australian to university. It costs taxpayers $148,000 a year to send someone to jail. That’s $11,000 a year to set someone up for life and $148,000 a year to lock you up for life. And, if you’re a young person in the juvenile justice system, it’s more like $1 million a year. What if better policies, informed by listening to people who know what they’re talking about, helped more young Indigenous people to finish school and go on to university, rather than to jail? That’s what we mean when we say ‘better results and a better use of taxpayers’ money’. Isn’t that what we all want? It’s not easy—it’s hard—but it’s worth it. It’s about building a country where no-one’s held back and no-one’s left behind, and that is what the Voice is all about.