Questions Without Notice – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice: Education

Mr LIM (Tangney) (15:07): My question is to the Minister for Education. How will the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice ensure better and fairer education for future generations?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (15:07): I thank the topnotch member for Tangney for his question. Uncle Harry Allie is 80 years old. He was born in Charters Towers, and in 1966 he joined the Royal Australian Air Force, the year before the referendum. Before the referendum, he wasn’t counted, but he was there for Australia when it counted. He served in Malaysia. His brother served in Vietnam. He served his country for more than 23 years. A couple of months ago, Harry had a triple bypass. I saw him on the streets of Bankstown in my neck of the woods the other day, handing out for the ‘yes’ campaign, and I asked him why he was there. In his typical humble way, he said to me, ‘For the next generation.’

Fifty-six per cent of Australian kids today are assessed as being ready to start school, but only 34 per cent of Indigenous kids are. Ninety-six per cent of 10-year-olds today meet the minimum literacy and numeracy standards, but only 77 per cent of Indigenous students do. Eighty-two per cent of young Australians finish high school today, but only 57 per cent of Indigenous Australians do. Almost one in two young Australian adults have a university degree today, but only seven per cent of young Indigenous Australians do. These are the kids who are missing out. This is the next generation that Harry’s talking about, and it’s not just them missing out. Education doesn’t just change the life of one individual. It changes families. It changes whole communities. It ricochets from one generation to the next. If your parents finish school, you’re more likely to finish school. You’re more likely to go to TAFE or to university. You’re more likely to earn more money and pay more tax, and your children are more likely to live better lives. That’s the power of education.

But it hasn’t reached into every corner of this country or every home. In all the time that we have all been here, this gap hasn’t closed. It’s barely budged. In some places, it’s gotten worse, despite everything that Labor governments and coalition governments have done or have tried to do. This should tell us that, 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. We’ve got nothing to fear from listening and a lot to gain: better results; a better use of taxpayer money; more Indigenous kids going to preschool, going to primary school and finishing high school; and more young Indigenous blokes going to university than to jail. That’s what this is about. It’s about, as my old mate Harry says, the next generation. If that’s not a reason to vote yes—if they are not a reason to vote yes—then I don’t know what is.