Press Conference – Sydney – Thursday 11 July 2024

THE HON JASON CLARE MP
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION

THE HON LINDA BURNEY MP
MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
PRESS CONFERENCE, SYDNEY
THURSDAY 11 JULY 2024

SUBJECTS: Funding for First Nations students; religious based parties; Middle East conflict; Alice Springs curfew; consent education.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: G’day everyone. I’m here with Linda Burney to make a very special announcement in NAIDOC Week about the extra investment that we’re making to support young Indigenous children to finish school and then go on to TAFE or university.

We’ve got a good education system in Australia, but the truth is it can be a lot better, and it can be a lot fairer. I often talk about the point that young people from poor families, young people from regional Australia, are less likely to finish school and less likely to go on to university than many other children in Australia. And that’s also very true of Indigenous Australians. And if we want to fix that, if we want to close the gap, we want to turn that around, it’s the sort of things that the Aurora Foundation and the GO Foundation are doing that can help us to do that. Whether that’s scholarships for kids going to public schools to help them with really practical things, everything from textbooks to Wi-Fi, or whether it’s tutoring and mentoring support that the Aurora Foundation do, all of that makes a big difference.

The work that the Aurora Foundation and the GO Foundation do now is working. The evidence is that it helps more kids go to school, finish school and then go on to uni, and we need more of that. And that’s why I’m so proud to be part of a government that is investing more in the Budget to continue and to expand the work that they’re doing. So, I’ll get Charlene and Leila to say a little bit more about the work that their two organisations do and will do with this funding in a minute. But before I do, I’ll hand over to Linda Burney.

LINDA BURNEY, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: Thank you, Minister. And it’s just wonderful to be here at the Sydney Swans with the Minister for Education, making announcements about additional funding to both the GO Foundation and the Aurora Foundation.

I have known both foundations for a very long time. I know the people that work in them. They are passionate, they are committed, and they know, like we do, that education is an absolute tool to breaking the poverty cycle that so many Aboriginal families find themselves in. Education is a hook to close the gap. Education is so very important in life, opening up life choices and life chances.

These young people around me are from all over NSW and all of them from western Sydney, and they have been participating in these programs. They know that these programs are important to them, they know that their education is important to them. And I always say to young people, you can lose a lot of things in life, but your education is yours and these young people know that.

LEILA SMITH: Thank you, Minister Clare and Minister Burney. And thank you for this investment into the future of Indigenous education. Indigenous-led data is a powerful tool for real change and real outcomes to champion Indigenous definitions of the success in education.

My name is Leila Smith, Wiradjuri woman and CEO of Aurora Education Foundation, we are working through our RISE initiative to identify and value and support Indigenous definitions of success in education. And thanks to this investment, we will be able to expand our programming and benefits of this to as many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students as possible. This is going to deliver high impact education for Indigenous children and Indigenous students and spark conversations about high aspirations and limitless potential. I’m really excited about this investment, not just for what it means for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students today, but for generations to come. Thank you.

CHARLENE DAVISON: Good afternoon, I’m Charlene Davison, a proud Biripi and Gadigal woman and CEO of the GO Foundation. Thank you, Minister Burney (Aunty Linda) and Minister Clare for being here for this announcement today. It’s a real honor to have this announcement at our home at Sydney Swans HQ.

The GO Foundation is really proud of the work that we do. Our aim is to empower our young men and women through education and we’re currently supporting 664 Aboriginal students across three locations here in Sydney, but also in Adelaide and in Canberra. And this investment by Government means so much to all of us at the GO Foundation. It allows us to have a great impact in the work that we’re doing with children and young people to achieve their educational dreams and reach their full potential. Some of those children are here with us today – it is the school holidays, so we’ve got a small number of our GO students who have joined us, but also some young people from the Aurora Education Foundation. And this announcement during NAIDOC Week in particular sends a really strong message that our Government is absolutely committed to supporting Aboriginal organisations, Aboriginal excellence and supporting the aspirations of our young mob.

We see firsthand at GO the impact that our work is having when our kids are strong in culture, dreaming big and following their aspirations. This investment allows us to really continue our work into the future. It provides security for these students, for the young people who are standing behind me, to know that they are going to be supported by the GO Foundation. They’re on multi year scholarships.

It also allows us to continue to employ an Aboriginal workforce. We have a dedicated scholarships team made up of Aboriginal people who support our students and the holistic program that we’re delivering through lived experience and that strong cultural lens and making sure that our, you know, the program that we’re delivering is culturally responsiveness. But this four-year funding cycle, coupled with existing support that we receive from partners and supporters, means that GO will be empowered to, as I said, continue to do our work, deliver on our mandate, extend our impact through deeper engagement with our students and plan for our next strategy period. So, thank you. We’re very grateful.

CLARE: Thanks, Charlene. Thanks, Leila. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Minister Clare, are you worried voters in your electorate could turn against Labor in favour of a possible Muslim vote candidate?

CLARE: I don’t take my electorate for granted. I don’t take any vote in my community for granted. I’m a kid from western Sydney and it’s the privilege of my life to represent my local community. I honestly pinch myself every day that I get to represent the place that I grew up in, in the Federal Parliament and I don’t take it for granted.

I often say to people that what’s happening on the other side of the world is different for my community than for most. For most Australians, it feels like a world away. But for my community, it’s really close to home. Often, it’s their family that are in the crossfire. Those dead bodies that we see on TV every night, they have names, and in my community, sometimes they’re mums and dad, they’re brothers and sisters, they are family. And that’s why they see it differently. That’s why they feel differently. That’s why they’re hurting so much.

JOURNALIST: Are you then worried about a potential challenge from this Muslim vote?

CLARE: We’re a democracy. The great thing about this country, unlike some others around the world, is anyone can put their hand up to stand and represent their community. Whoever wants to put their hand up to represent their community, they should be encouraged to do so. I’ll be putting my hand up as well.

There is one thing that binds us all together in my community and across Australia, and that is my community wants the killing to stop. They want the slaughter to stop. They want the suffering that’s happening in Gaza to stop. They want the starvation of kids to stop. They want this humanitarian catastrophe to end. They want the occupation to end. They want two countries to exist side by side where people can live safely next door to each other, like we do here in Australia. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

JOURNALIST: Yeah. It seems your constituents aren’t happy with Labor’s position on this issue. You rightly highlight that their particularly impacted by it. So, why then should they vote for Labor if they’re not happy with Labor’s position on this issue?

CLARE: Not only have we called for a ceasefire, not only have we called for the war to end, but we’ve voted for it in the United Nations. Not only have we said that there should be greater recognition for Palestine in the United Nations, we’ve voted for it as well. We’ve said that this is occupied territory. We’ve reversed the decision of the previous government to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, that it should stay in Tel Aviv. We’ve made all of those points clear. And I know that there is more work to do. Ultimately, what we want is the killing to stop.

JOURNALIST: Minister Burney, do you support the extension of a curfew in Alice Springs?

BURNEY: There has just been an announcement by the Northern Territory Government that the curfew of three days will not be extended, but there will be additional work done with families and with communities, particularly those that want return to their communities.

I think the curfew was important. It gave the opportunity for calmness to descend on Alice Springs. But the Northern Territory Government has taken the decisions that it will not be extended. And that’s their provocative.

JOURNALIST: Do you support that though?

BURNEY: I support very much the work that we’re doing both with the Northern Territory Government and with community organisations in Alice Springs. The issues of Alice Springs have not developed overnight. They’re complex, they’re hard, and they will take time, time to resolve.

We are seeing some fantastic outcomes. I was up there with the Minister and the Prime Minister going to schools where students are staying on longer. We are putting $18 million into increased and better boarding facilities in Alice Springs. There are some very positive things happening. It’s the Northern Territory Government’s decision to end the curfew. And I support that.

JOURNALIST: There are calls from Warren Mundine and others for you to resign over your handling of Alice Springs. What’s your response?

BURNEY: Well, I have been to Alice Springs eight times. We’re working with the leadership group out there. We’re working with the Northern Territory Government. And quite frankly, I am not too concerned about the comments of Mister Mundine.

JOURNALIST: I just wanted to follow up on some of the Palestine question. You mentioned what the Government has done in terms of moving forward, but with your community and some of the concerns being raised, you see a difference in the way which – when it comes to the devastation which has happened in the children’s hospital in Ukraine being condemned as abhorrent, but then we simply see concerns raised about what’s happening in Gaza. Does that rhetoric alienate some of the people in your community?

CLARE: I condemn the killing of any innocent people. Whether it’s the bombing of a hospital in Ukraine, or whether it’s the bombing of a school in Gaza. Death is death. And I don’t want to see any innocent people killed. That’s why I say my community wants the killing to stop. I want the killing to stop. The Australian Government wants the killing to stop. I think the Australian people want the killing to stop.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the antisemitism envoy that got announced yesterday, [indistinct] reports she signed an opening letter [indistinct] occupied Palestinian territories. So, do you some of these comments, or essentially does this negate what she’s working towards in terms of community cohesion?

CLARE: I haven’t seen the details of that, Dom. I’d make the general point we are the best country in the world. And one of the reasons for that is we’re made up of people from all around the world living here in harmony. But that harmony can be stretched and ripped at – we’re seeing that in our community at the moment, where what’s happening on the other side of the world is pulling our country apart. We can’t let that happen.

It’s incumbent on leaders, whether they’re Labor, Liberal, Green or any other, to lower the temperature, work together to keep our country together. And part of the role of these envoys is to help us to do that. Kids aren’t born racist. We’re not born with a racist bone in our body, but it can be learned, and it can be unlearned. And where we’ve seen the rise of antisemitism or the rise of Islamophobia, we’ve got to do everything we can to stamp that out.

JOURNALIST: This week we’ve seen some pretty hard on [indistinct] statistics when it comes to sexual violence and sexual offence. I was just wondering if you could give me an update on the [indistinct] taskforce, and what that’s doing in schools. Or are we going to receive an update from [indistinct].

CLARE: You asked me a question about this a couple of weeks ago to give you an update. The agreements with the states are very, very close to being finalised now. I should be in a position to make an announcement about that shortly and hopefully see the rollout of these programs before the end of the year.

ENDS