Press Conference with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, NSW Deputy Premier Prue Car – Kirrawee High School – Tuesday 31 October 2023

ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA

JASON CLARE MP
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION 

PRUE CAR MP
NSW DEPUTY PREMIER
 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
PRESS CONFERENCE 
SYDNEY
TUESDAY, 31 OCTOBER 2023

SUBJECTS: Launch of Be That Teacher Advertising Campaign. 

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Can I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners and pay my respects to elder’s past, present and emerging, and to say, it’s fantastic to be here in Kirrawee, and I thank the school principal, the teachers, and importantly, the students for the very warm welcome here today. And it’s great to be with Jason Clare and Prue Car, our respective Commonwealth and State Education Ministers and these wonderful teachers behind us who will be a really important, each of them, really important role models in this Be that teacher campaign that we are launching today. Everyone, when they look back at their time at school, can think about the teacher that made a difference in their lives. I studied economics at Sydney University because my economics teacher was the person who encouraged me to go to university and to take up the learning of that profession. And he made a big difference to my life and to the journos who are here, might know a fellow called Paul Cleary who went on to be a significant journalist. He was a year below me at school, same story did economics because of Paul Cheney, the teacher who we had at school. When I was in year five, I went to St Mary’s that went from year five to year twelve. I went along and I got picked in the rugby league team for under twelves and the next year in under sixes. Brother Simpson made me captain of the rugby league team. I wasn’t the best player in the team, that’s the truth, but he made me captain. So, he saw some leadership qualities in me at that young age. That meant I had to stand up every Monday morning and talk about how we went on the Saturday game that we played, in what was in the eastern suburbs comp of rugby league. He too gave me that leg up and gave me that support and confidence going forward. So, teachers play a role. I tell those two stories, I could tell many more, not just in the educational attainment and the professions and careers that people might take. They play a role in shaping young people as well. They play a role in making a difference to their lives and what we need today is more of them. We need more teachers and we need to celebrate and value the profession of teaching for the extraordinary profession that it does. Having a lasting legacy on future generations going through, as well as, of course, with the skills that are imparted. Making sure that our young people are equipped to cope with what is an ever changing world. Making sure that they have the skills not just to rote, learn and get through exams, because that’s not going to get you through life. The truth is that young people today won’t do what I was told, which was get a job and you would stay in that profession for a long period of time. So, I went to work for the Commonwealth Bank on the Monday after I finished my last HSC exam, I thought that I would be there for a long period of time. The truth is that with today’s changing world, with IT, with robotics, with the different nature of the way that workplaces operate, people are likely to have not a career, but many careers, and picking up those skills is something that is a challenge for them, but a challenge for their teachers as well as we go forward. Now this program today that we’re launching will run from tomorrow, the 1st of November 2023, right through to April 2024, and it’s aimed at highlighting the wonderful impact that teachers can have. We’ll have stories, including of the teachers who are behind us, across billboards, train stations, bus stops and social media, because we want more young Australians to see this and decide to be that teacher, that teacher who changes lives, who provides an inspiration going forward. I thank the teachers behind me for participating in this. I thank Jason and all of the State and Territory Governments who are agreeing to this as well. Next year, you’ll see a new school funding agreement and that is something we aim to reach with each State and Territory Government, to get all schools on a pathway to full and fair funding, something that my Government is committed to achieving. But today is a great day. Today’s a day to focus on this, and I encourage the media outlets who are covering this to give a push along to this campaign, because I can’t think of a more valuable campaign, not just for our young Australians, but the future Australia that we wish to create. Thanks very much. And I’ll call upon Prue and then Jase, and then we’ll hear from a couple of the teachers.

PRUE CAR, DEPUTY PREMIER OF NEW SOUTH WALES: Thank you, Prime Minister. Can I just say, as the Minister for Education here in NSW, what an honour it is to be here at this great local public high school with the Prime Minister of Australia celebrating our teachers, because that’s what we’re doing today. And I certainly can speak for our Government in NSW, and I know that all the State and Territory Governments across the country know that the most important thing that we can invest in to improve outcomes for our children is the teacher, are the teachers that are in front of our children in their classroom. It is the top priority of the Labor Government here in NSW, and that’s why we are so proud to be contributing to this wonderful advertising campaign being led by the Federal Government and Education Minister, Jason Clare. Can I just say, the teachers in all the classrooms, in all the public schools and private schools and independent schools, all of our schools across the country, but here in NSW I’m going to focus on here in particular, those teachers, our teachers, are responsible for every single outcome in every single school. They are responsible for every brighter future, and the Government here in NSW makes absolutely no bones about the fact that we will be approaching reform in the education system through the prism of valuing the wonderful teaching profession. The way we speak about teachers, the way we lift up teachers, is going to make such a difference to making sure we attract more teachers into this profession, the profession that starts all other professions. You just have to look at our example here, Mrs Lacey here at Kirrawee High School, who even the principal quite clearly said is the heart and soul of this school. And this campaign is Be that teacher, I know as someone that goes to schools almost every day, every single one of our teachers in NSW is that teacher. And if this encourages more teachers to enrol in university courses, to make sure that they start the noble profession of educating the next generation, then this has been a wonderful investment, because we cannot do anything if we’re not investing in the teachers that are educating the next generation of Australians here in NSW. I’m so proud to be part of that, and we will talk up the wonderful work that teachers do in our schools each and every day.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: G’day, everyone. First, can I thank Christine, who’s hiding away over there, Christine, the principal of Kirrawee High. Thank you for hosting us today, really appreciate it. Can I thank you, Prue, and the seven other Education Ministers across the country who’ve helped us to fund and put this campaign together. This is a joint effort, 50% funded by the Commonwealth Government and 50% funded by the State and Territory Governments. It’s a great example of the work that we do together and the work that we’re going to do together next year. And can I thank the boss. Prime Minister, you being here, launching this campaign says something. It talks about the value that you place on our teachers and the importance that you place on education, and I know that you get it. That it’s our teachers and it’s the investments we make in education that are the key to opening that door of opportunity that you talk about all the time. So, thank you. Can I thank the team at Clemenger, they often don’t get a rap, but they’re the guys and girls behind the campaign. These ads are going to win awards. I don’t want to kibosh them, but the first time I saw them, I don’t mind saying that I burst into tears, and if you haven’t seen them yet, get a box of tissues. And can I thank the eight teachers that are the real heroes of these ads, six of whom are here today. Heroes without superpowers, ordinary people that do extraordinary things. This is no ordinary job. Being a teacher is the most important job in the world and we don’t have enough of them. There are lots of reasons for that, part of it’s pay, part of its workload, part of it is respect. When you survey teachers, most teachers will tell you that they don’t feel like they’re valued by their community, and we need to change that. I want to change the way that Australia views teachers, and I want to change the way that teachers think Australia views them, and that’s what this campaign is all about, valuing our teachers. There are eight teachers in this campaign, but in truth, they represent more than 300,000 teachers doing the same thing every day. And every teacher across the country has the same sort of stories, just as moving, just as inspiring, just as likely to bring you to tears. Because it’s our teachers that inspire our children to aim higher, to work harder, to be braver, to be kinder, and to believe in themselves. That’s what makes being a teacher the most important job in the world, and that’s why we’re using this campaign to encourage more Australians to be that teacher. Now, it’s Kerri-Ann’s turn, pressure’s on, this is your school, Kerri-Ann.

KERRI-ANN LACEY, TEACHER: It is, welcome.

MINISTER CLARE: And you’re not the hero. You’re the star right?

LACEY: Well, apparently so. They keep telling me.

MINISTER CLARE: Over to you.

LACEY: Oh, what am I supposed to do?

MINISTER CLARE: Teachers don’t like talking very much, do they?

LACEY: Oh, look, when we’re in front of our classes, it’s really easy because you’re on show and you’re communicating and you’re connecting with your students. But this is a very different world. So, yeah, we are used to talking, though. But we do like a little help when we’ve got a whole bunch of cameras in front of us.

MINISTER CLARE: All right, okay. Just pretend that there’s one person here.

LACEY: Right.

MINISTER CLARE: Okay. Tell the story of the star.

LACEY: Oh, the story of the star. So, this young man, I met him in year seven, and he fronted to my doorstep and he introduced himself and he said to me, “I’m here and I’m ready to be part of the music department,” had the biggest grin on his face, and he was just this gorgeous little boy who played tuba. That young man went on to be our school captain in 2018, and when he graduated, he actually presented myself and six other staff members in this school with a star. So, he had named a star after us and he had called it “Magnifico Septem,” which meant “the Magnificent Seven,” and for those that know television and movies, the Magnificent Seven is a wonderful soundtrack that Michael just fell in love with from when he was in year seven. And so he decided Magnificent Seven wasn’t a good enough name. So, “Magnifico Septem,” it became and he presented us with this star, and he turned up to my doorstep on the veranda and he just handed me the envelope. And you’ve seen the envelope, those that have seen the ad, you see the envelope here. And I just went, “oh, gorgeous, it’s a card, oh, how beautiful,” and I’ve opened it, and when I pulled it out and actually opened it and saw that it was a star in the Grus Constellation, I had nothing. I had absolutely nothing. I burst into tears and I said to him, “…” that was it. That’s all. I had had nothing else. It was just the most incredible choice of a gift. You can’t in your head you cannot get your head around how a 17 year old young person stands there and goes, “I’m going to give this person a star, I’m going to name that person, I’m going to give them a star and put their name on it.” I mean, who in a 17 year old thinks like that. So, it was just the most extraordinary experience I think I’ve ever had in my life, and that young man has gone on to be quite extraordinary. He now works at Taronga Zoo, he’s a rural firefighter, he’s off to change the world, which is what I always said he would be. How am I doing?

MINISTER CLARE: That’s pretty good. Now I’m going to switch you out.

LACEY: Excellent.

MINISTER CLARE: And I’m going to ask Stacy to come up.

LACEY: Wonderful.

MINISTER CLARE: Stacy, your ad is the one where it sort of blew me away. 1 minute you’re talking about a young person that has challenges with a disability, and the next minute she’s in the swimming pool. But I don’t want to give the whole thing away, so maybe I’ll get you to tell the story.

STACY FROGLEY, TEACHER: Okay. So, my student was Izzy. I taught her in year seven, and she has a condition called sacral agenesis, where the lower part of her spine didn’t form in utero. And when she came to me in year seven, all of her friends were going off to do athletics, cross country, all of the sports that they loved doing. And she was getting to a point where walking was getting difficult for her, so she was more bound to her wheelchair and you could see it was taking its toll on her. At that time, I was a triathlete and a swimmer, and I just happened to say to her one day, “Have you ever tried swimming, Izzy?” And it feels like a blink of an eye, she was in the pool with a coach, and was actually beating my time within a few months and just had this little pipe dream of saying, “if I try really, really hard, maybe just maybe one day, I’ll make it to the Paris Paralympics, if I try really hard, I’ll make it to Tokyo,” and that’s exactly what she did. And to see a student that I just had a fleeting conversation with one day, come into the room and give me this little memento, it was just a hand drawn picture of me and said, “thank you for getting me to try Paralympic swimming,” to see, to see that moment and to be part of that, then to be watching her on the world stage. On the dias getting a medal, she won two medals in Tokyo, and is now training for Paris. To be a part of that journey, for that student, and for so many other students who have had their own journey. It’s, it’s so valuable, and it’s, it’s such an honor to be a part of that as a teacher. And I think the community as a whole doesn’t really understand that impact that we have. And it’s such a privilege to just be able to be part of it. And there’s gonna be so many more stories for myself, for these great teachers here, and for the 300,000 teachers across Australia. And I just encourage anyone who’s even thinking about becoming a teacher, give it a go because you are going to just be blown away by what you’ve see in the students.

MINISTER CLARE: Dennis I want to drag you in if I can mate. I remember at the end of your ad, you saying that you’re going to be a teacher for life. And it’s the only ad where you can hear the person behind the camera talking say “why?” and you said, because it felt like it was where you belong, where you are meant to be.

DENNIS WANG, TEACHER: Yeah, I suppose when I first, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I went to university. I thought maybe going into scientific research. But then talking to everyone around me, who was also studying science had such a passion for it. All of them had the same story, they were all in this course because of a teacher that they had in high school and I felt exactly the same way. And I suppose the first time I thought about being a teacher, I was going around telling everyone “I’m thinking of becoming a teacher,” and my entire family and all my friends, everyone I said that to just said “that makes sense, you give off a very strong teacher vibes.” So they just said that’s where I fit and the more and more I teach, the more I feel, the more stories I see, the more other teachers I see and it just feels like I’m surrounded by these wonderful people and wonderful young people and just feels like I belong, like I fit.

MINISTER CLARE: Sam, can I bring you up. Now if I remember your ad you talked about, life is a series of meaningful moments, that you get one of those moments every day as a teacher. Yours is the funniest ad, do you want to tell the story of that?

SAM DAVIES, TEACHER: Hello Keira. So Keira is a student who gave me a gift. Keira, I taught her in year nine and for a bit of year ten. She like many maybe didn’t love school, didn’t have a great time in school and made it her mission, very, very smart student, made it her mission to make my life as her teacher as difficult as possible. She was extremely successful with that, and when I left that school to another one, she told me I was the only teacher who had never yelled at her and took real pride in that in making sure that I was always treating her with respect, and she recognised that I’d done that, and as I left she gave me a signed certificate framed and signed that said, “certificate of achievement, this is for surviving Keira and all her attitude. Sorry.” Signed on my birthday and dated which was showed some reflection on her side as well, which I really appreciated, but also just that sense of humor and an intellect and sense of humor that really I think carried her through to do great things in life. So yeah, life is about making meaningful moments, you get a meaningful moment, every single day in this job and they’re not always big, they’re not always really obvious moments outside the classroom. Sometimes they’re really, really small but incredibly meaningful for that person who’s in front of you, that student. So it’s an incredible profession. Sometimes I think people say teaching is a thankless job, I would disagree with that, I get thanked every single day by my students, quite often by parents as well, the people who know what difference we make, they do tend to do. So please do become one of our colleagues. We’re really nice people.

MINISTER CLARE: Sandy, I talked about tearing up when I was watching the ads. You were sort of teared up in your story as well. Do you want to come and talk. You talked about what it meant to be someone’s idol, and how they blew your mind. Can you talk to us a little bit about your story and the students that said that you were her idol.

SANDY LUC, TEACHER: Yeah, so I won’t lie like, it’s a tough gig, teaching. It’s kind of the best and worst job rolled into one a lot of the time. But then you have these moments where, you know, like this year seven girl came to me and said “Miss are you from [inaudible]” and I’m like, “no,” and she said, “you look like my favorite actor,” and which got onto the story of how she gave me this note that ended with a really potent line that said, “not only do you look like one of my idols, you are one,” that how she signed off. Even now whenever I read it, I can’t believe that someone can say that about yourself. And I think when you become a teacher, you kind of, you celebrate the students successes, but probably more instrumental is you’re there to support their struggles, and you’re there to guide them through that. And I think when you become a teacher, you look at the world with so much compassion and humility, because you meet all these students that have so much more resilience than you ever would. And it just makes you realise that you’re, you’re that person to, to guide them through these instrumental core events of their teenage years. And it’s really, it’s a job that rests on your shoulders, I guess and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

MINISTER CLARE: Last but not least, your story talks about how a teacher really does change a young person’s life and give them skills to do things that they otherwise may not be able to do, do things for the very first time. Again, can I get you to tell your story?

BECK ANDREWS, TEACHER: Of course, actually, my Kai came to me, it was one of those typical primary school handovers that teachers don’t generally talk about where you’re going to have a tough time with this child, you probably won’t get too much out of her, you probably won’t actually see her come into the classroom. So that was the pre-frame that I received. After a month or so with, with Kai, I realised that she probably actually had a hidden disability and a lot of the behaviour actually came from that. So for those who might not know, it actually takes a lot of work between teachers and parents and lots of outside parties to get a disability diagnosed and to then treat it, it’s sometimes even impossible to have that happen in the year that you have them. And she was in year four at the time, we did get it diagnosed, we got her stepping in the classroom, we got her writing a letter at a time. And by the end of the school year, she was able to write me a misspelled beautiful Christmas card. And so that was just a message for me for the rest of my career that every single student counts. Like it can be a thankless job at times. And I come from a small school in a small state, very small state right down the bottom. And it’s very easy to get the entire class of crazy little personalities and let one slip through the cracks if you don’t pay attention to what might be going on underneath.

MINISTER CLARE: I guess we’ll go over to questions.

PRIME MINISTER: Can I make one further point, this is my second stint as a Minister. My deputy chief of staff, when I was a Minister in the Rudd and Gillard governments, quit that career, he was very successful, very good at it, went back to university in his fifty’s to retrain so he could be a maths teacher in high school, and today he is a math teacher in high school. It just shows this campaign is aimed not just at people thinking about what careers they’ll begin, but also aimed, he would be because he’s my age, he would be fantastic in a classroom. And I think in terms of role models, so, to Antony Sachs, big shout out to you, mate. And for others as well, I think that this campaign is aimed at them. Happy to take some questions on this, difficult ones to Jason, really difficult ones to the teachers.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how much of a role do teachers’ salaries play in the nations teachers shortages and is enough being done on that issue?

PRIME MINISTER: I think I might put this to Prue, the Education Minister. Obviously salary is one issue when people aim up or think about what career they’ll do. But the example I just gave took a big pay cut and took three years, I think or two years because he was just topping up his education, free of any income in order to make a difference. I think the truth is that this campaign is never going to aim at teachers being paid as much as engineers or doctors. What it’s aimed at doing is if you look at a fulfilling life that you have where you’re making a difference, that’s part of the equation as well. So yes, it’s always a part people need to pay their bills and one of the things that my government’s committed to across a range of areas has been notably in aged care, the first thing we’ve done is to make a difference, but it’s not just about that. And this campaign is very much aimed at showing the difference that people can make.

DEPUTY PREMIER CAR: Thank you. Yeah, I mean, obviously that’s a matter for each particular state and territory government. I would say that teachers are expert professionals, they deserve to be paid like expert professionals. And something that we have confronted upon coming to government here in NSW was a teaching workforce that was chronically undervalued and had their wages chronically suppressed. We have addressed that by giving the biggest pay rise to teachers in a generation here in NSW, started rolling into pay packets from last week. I was talking to some of the teachers in the playground beforehand who have started receiving that pay increase here in NSW. So, it’s something we’ve decided to do to address the chronic shortage we have in NSW. But why we’re supporting this here today is about that piece about valuing teachers as well, because teachers deserve to be paid as the experts they are. But one of the biggest pieces of feedback we get from teachers everywhere I go in particular, is they feel chronically undervalued even though they are the most important profession in society, hands down. And the way that we talk about teachers is so important, and the way that we talk about it as the model profession, as a noble profession, is so important. So, I suppose that’s our focus today. But yes, here in NSW, we have given teachers a massive pay rise. A pay rise they’ve deserved and they were denied by the previous Liberal government for twelve years.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how many teachers short are we across the board?

MINISTER CLARE: Go to any school right across the country and you’ll find children in the playground, children in rec rooms, because there isn’t a teacher there. A shortage of permanent teachers, shortage of casuals as well – that’s just the truth. Over the course of the last ten years, we’ve seen a twelve per cent drop in the number of young people becoming teachers enrolling in the university course. But not just that, part of the problem is only one in two people who start the degree finish it. And a lot of teachers tell me that when they get to school after finishing the course, they don’t feel prepared, they don’t feel ready. And as a result, one in three people who start as a teacher quit within the first three years. So, there’s lots we’ve got to do to turn this around. First is about encouraging more people to become a teacher – that’s what this campaign is about. That’s what the $40,000 scholarships that we’ll open applications for very soon will be all about, to support people as they become a teacher. But we’ve also got to change the course at Uni so that we get the fundamentals right and teachers have the skills they need to be a teacher from day one and make sure that we’re providing more support for teachers when they first start in those early years so that we don’t have teachers leave the profession they love.

PRIME MINISTER: Time for a couple more.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, moving away from education, will you be raising the case of writer, Yang Hengjun when you arrive in Beijing? (Inaudible) raising concerns about his situation? 

PRIME MINISTER: We have raised concerns, including at meetings I’ve had in the past with President Xi. Australia will always raise cases involving Australian citizens. We’re very pleased that Cheng Lei has been able to be rejoined with her daughters and her family in Melbourne. That was a good outcome. But we always raise cases of Australian citizens.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, President Biden today unveiled a new set of regulations into AI. What more can Australia do to make sure this technology is working for us and not against us.

PRIME MINISTER: We’re working through, Ed Husic in particular about AI and making sure that artificial intelligence works for people and that people, their human content is not removed. That this is a technology that can be liberating, that can lead to a massive boost in productivity, but we need to be very conscious about ensuring that humans are still in control of what occurs. We need to examine and have proper regulations as well about privacy issues and about ensuring that people’s rights are protected as well.

JOURNALIST: In your view, does the release of Cheng Lei increase the prospects of Dr Yang being released?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, these cases are of course, each case is different, but each case is important. And we will continue to raise these issues and continue to raise Australia’s national interest. What I’ve said about China is that we’ll cooperate where we can, we’ll disagree where we must, but we will engage in our national interest. One in four of Australia’s export dollars is dependent upon the China relationship. We’ve seen breakthroughs in timber, barley, hay, wine, a range of products. There are some more products as well in terms of the economic relationship. And then there’s the issue of our citizens that we’ll continue to raise. We’ll continue to raise issues, including our view about the South China Sea and the importance of the rite of passage for our trade through the waterways of the world. And we’ll continue to state our view, which is that international law is very important. We will engage in a respectful way, in a way that’s about outcomes, not a loud hailer aimed at scoring domestic political points, aimed at achieving Australia’s national interests. And that’s what I look forward to doing when I visit China on Saturday. Thanks very much.

ENDS