National History Challenge
Mr ASHTON (East Hills) [9.32 p.m.]: Tonight I had the privilege of attending with the Premier the New South Wales National History Challenge 2002 awards for students who won prizes for their presentations on various aspects of history. These students will represent New South Wales in the National History Challenge that will be held in Canberra later this year. I want to place on record my appreciation of the Premier-who, as honourable members would know, is a great lover of all ages of history-attending the function.
I congratulate Julianne Beek, the National History Challenge State Co-ordinator, former colleague Albert Marchetto, the Vice-President of the History Teachers Association of New South Wales, and Kate Cameron, the President of the History Teachers Association of New South Wales. The students who won the various categories were: for years 5 to 6, Liam Howitt from Avoca Beach Public School, Avoca Beach; years 7 to 8, Olivia Bush from St Pauls Grammar School; years 9 to 10, Bridianne O'Dea from John Paul College, Coffs Harbour; and years 11 to 12, Kim Doyle from Narara Valley High School, Narara. Kim also won the Premier's Young Historian award for 2002.
Some of the topics the students dealt with were "In War and Peace", "Asia and Australia", "Life and Times of John Curtin"-which is always a popular topic with Labor members-"Australia's Heritage" and the "Australian Parliament". Four students from John Paul College, Coffs Harbour, presented an exhibit called "Creating a Horizons". I am sure the honourable member for Coffs Harbour would be pleased to hear how well that college is doing. The awards are sponsored by the Department of Education, Science and Training, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Asia Education Foundation, and the National Museum of Australia, and they are supported by the Australian Council of National Trusts, the Australian War Memorial, the National Archives of Australia, the Parliamentary Education Office of this Parliament, and the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.
Two to three weeks ago I wrote to the Premier on behalf of the history staff at Picnic Point High School seeking a small donation from his department. As I have previously said in this House, Picnic Point High School has an Anzac Day ceremony that is second to none, and last year's was the first function that Professor Marie Bashir attended in her role as Governor of New South Wales. The school's history staff, of their own accord and with their own money, have begun to set up a special area of the school to commemorate the Kokoda Track tradition of Australia's history in the New Guinea campaign. As all honourable members would be aware, it is sixty years since that battle on the Kokoda Track was fought. We know it was the first time that the Japanese were defeated in proper combat.
I wish to pay credit to the Premier, who was good enough to make funding available for the museum display at Picnic Point High School. On behalf of the school, the students, the parents, the teachers and myself, as a former head teacher at that school, I thank the Premier for his contribution to the establishment of that museum and monument to the series of battle campaigns in New Guinea. It is also worth remembering that it was this Government and Premier Carr who were instrumental in making sure that the modern history syllabus is compulsory until year 10, with a three-unit option to be undertaken in years 11 and 12.
I also acknowledge that the Minister for Small Business, and Minister for Tourism provided financial assistance to the National History Teachers Conference to be held in Sydney in October 2002. Although the funding is only a small amount, it is a good sum for an organisation that has very little money. The History Teachers Association of New South Wales is largely an organisation funded through teachers' contributions. In October the National History Teachers Conference will be held in Sydney, and I thank the Minister for Small Business, and Minister for Tourism for her donation to the cause. Once again, on a night where history is the theme, on behalf of Picnic Point High School, the History Teachers Association of New South Wales, and the students who won the National History Challenge awards tonight, I thank the Premier and Minister Nori.
Mr STEWART (Bankstown-Parliamentary Secretary) [9.37 p.m.]: On behalf of the Government, I reaffirm the comments made by the honourable member for East Hills. The Government and the Premier are very proud to place the focus on education. As the Premier has often pointed out, history is the foundation of tomorrow. The comments made by the honourable member for East Hills tonight emphasises the importance of history teaching. The students who won the awards are to be complimented. The awards demonstrate not only the ability of the students themselves but of the role of education in this great State and its focus on history under the Carr Government.
I commend the honourable member for East Hills for focusing attention on the teaching of history. As the honourable member pointed out, in a past life he was a history teacher at Picnic Point High School, where he focused on ensuring that the syllabus of history received the opportunities and perspectives that need to be in place for young people today. History is a difficult subject. I was a history teacher. The difficulty is not that it is not an enriching subject, but because it is perceived to be a subject that should be put aside to enable other things to happen. History is fundamental to our social sciences today. It is great that the Government is according that perspective its deserved place. It is great that the honourable member for East Hills is putting his efforts into ensuring that young people will deliver our future.