ABORIGINAL SECONDARY EDUCATION
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: I direct my question without notice to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs and Minister for Employment and Training. Is it a fact that increasing numbers of Aboriginal schoolchildren in New South Wales are completing their secondary school education and sitting for the higher school certificate examination? Is this an encouraging and positive development under the Minister's administration, compared to the sorry record of the former Australian Labor Party Government? What are the reasons for this encouraging development, which will also open up more employment opportunities for Aboriginal students?
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: It is true to say that there have been pleasing advances in Aboriginal education in recent years due in no small way to two significant factors. First and foremost is the application of funds to this area. Good will and rhetoric may be one thing, but a commitment to increased funds is another. In 1991-92 almost $8.5 million was allocated specifically to the Aboriginal education plan, as opposed to staff development, Commonwealth funds and the like. That is a remarkable turnaround from the $5.4 million allocated in 1988-89, and is in contrast to the sorry neglect, bleeding hearts and rhetorical approach that was apparent for the 10 years prior to that. The second important factor is that though resources are important, there must be a detailed plan of the things one intends to do and the stages at which they are to be done. What the Government has done in regard to Aboriginal education is indeed multifaceted.
I should have thought that the Hon. Franca Arena would have an interest in Aboriginal education and disadvantaged groups.
The Hon. Franca Arena: I have.
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: That does not seem to be so, having regard to the honourable member's frivolous comments today. I say simply that within our schools we now have a significant number of Aboriginal education assistants. They provide an excellent role model and support not only for the children in the schools but for the participation of Aboriginal communities in the schools. It is gratifying to see not only the results of that program but the number of Aboriginal assistants who are getting the interest and confidence to proceed to undertake teacher training. Though to date we have only one Aboriginal principal of a school in New South Wales, at least we have the first Aboriginal principal. I hope that is a sign of what one can expect in the future. Aboriginal children are staying on at school; they are being retained and are beginning to complete their higher school certificates. I am the first to concede that, given the sad and sorry history of 200 years, we have a long way to go. Nevertheless, I am pleased about the work that has been done in establishing Aboriginal pre-schools so that children and parents can get in early to arrange their educational experience and build up their confidence. We have tried to redress the problems that were so graphically outlined at Toomelah, and a new high school has been established at Boggabilla, collocated with TAFE. I went there to open the TAFE and school facilities, which are excellent and are highly regarded and used by the community. A health centre is located within the complex.
Another gratifying matter regarding Aboriginal education is the way that we have given more than tokenism and lip-service to the involvement of Aboriginal communities. Through the New South Wales Aboriginal education consultative group, so ably headed by Linda Burney, we are in a position where the next triennial plan for Aboriginal education has been accepted. I received word only today from the Federal Minister, Mr Tickner, of his acceptance of that plan. That plan was not drawn up by me; it was not drawn up by white bureaucrats. It was drafted by the New South Wales AECG, with secretarial and executive support from my department. That plan was drawn up by the Aboriginal community and therefore had their involvement, their ownership and their interest. I acknowledge that after 200 years of neglect there is a way to go, but I genuinely believe that some of our actions and successes in recent years have given us a lot of confidence and encouragement to proceed.