Question Time: Schools – Northern Territory

Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (14:29): My question is to the Minister for Education. What is the Albanese Labor government doing to build a better and fairer school education system in the Northern Territory?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (14:29): Can I thank my good friend the sensational member for Solomon for his question. The Northern Territory has some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country. At the moment it also has the most underfunded schools in the country. At the moment, their funded at less than 80 per cent of what David Gonski said they should be. In other words, one in five kids in class in the Northern Territory today aren’t being funded at all. In other words, they’re not getting the support they need, which other children take for granted, to learn to read, write and finish school.

And until last week, that wasn’t supposed to be fixed until 2050. That’s the date when they were expected to hit 100 per cent of what David Gonski said they needed. What we announced last week is that we are bringing this forward by more than 20 years. To do that, we are going to double Commonwealth government funding to public schools in the Northern Territory. This is the biggest new investment in schools in the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth government ever. It is not a blank cheque. As I’ve said here and elsewhere, we’re going to tie this funding to the sort of things that help children who fall behind to catch up, keep up, finish school and then hopefully go on to TAFE or to university. It’s also part of a bigger plan with every state and every territory to fund all public schools properly, where the Australian government chips in and where the states chip in just like the Northern Territory government has chipped in, and where we tie this funding to real reforms.

But the Northern Territory is different. The disadvantage there is bigger, and the challenge is bigger. Today, right around the country, children are doing NAPLAN tests, and if the last few years are a guide then one in 10 of the children sitting those tests won’t meet the minimum standards we set for them. In the Northern Territory, one in three children won’t meet those standards. The challenge is huge. That’s why what we announced last week is so important, because if we are serious about helping those children who are falling behind and who are behind then this is what we’ve got to do: fund the schools that they go to properly and tie that funding to the sort of things that help those children who fall behind to catch up, keep up and finish school. That includes things like catch-up tutoring.

We want to build a country when no-one is held back and no-one is left behind. These are not just words; this is backed by action, and that’s what this billion-dollar investment Northern Territory schools is all about. This will be a game changer for the Northern Territory and a life changer for the children who live there.