Government pledges free university to attract top teachers to remote schools – Politics

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Updated

February 14, 2019 11:05:18

Teaching graduates will have their university debts wiped if they teach in remote communities, under a new plan to boost Indigenous education outcomes.

Key points:

  • New policy wants top teachers in remote schools
  • Government promises to wipe university debts of teachers that spend four years in remote schools
  • Latest Indigenous scorecard shows most targets still off track

The multi-million-dollar announcement came as the latest scorecard on Indigenous disadvantage revealed most targets were still off track.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered his first Closing the Gap statement today.

In his address to Parliament, he said the years of limited progress to close the gap was “unforgivable”.

“I want Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to have the same opportunity as any other child in this country,” he said.

“But, it’s not true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children growing up in Australia today, and it’s never been true and I don’t know when it will be true.

“This situation remains in an unforgivable state, but we will never rest as a nation until we change this for good.”

The Prime Minister said: “Progress may not be fast enough or far enough but … we do always need to mark what’s been accomplished.”

While the gap has not been closed, the report showed the early education target was on track, along with the Year 12 attainment goal.

“The biggest improvement has been in Year 12 attainment, where there has been a jump of 18 percentage points since 2006,” Mr Morrison said.

To improve education outcomes, the Commonwealth has vowed to waive the student debts of teachers who spend four years working in very remote communities.

More than 3,000 teachers and nearly 300 schools are expected to benefit.

“We want to get the very best teachers to go there,” Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion told AM.

“That we know is a policy that is going to work.

“We think, and we know, that the quality of the teachers is absolutely important to getting that literacy and numeracy right.”

Labor frontbencher Linda Burney said the Prime Minister’s HECS announcement ignored the fact 79 per cent of Indigenous people lived in urban areas.

“Yes, the issues in remote communities are shocking and they need to be addressed, but the Prime Minister and this Government ignore the fact that two-thirds of Aboriginal people actually live in urban environments,” she said.

Organisations supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students will also receive a $177 million boost.

Goal tracking slips

The 11th annual Closing the Gap statement has shown just two of seven goals on track — one fewer than last year.

“While our people still live very much in third-world conditions in a lot of areas still in Australia … we have to hold everybody to account,” Indigenous health leader Pat Turner said.

Closing the Gap targets

  • Early education — on track
  • Year 12 attainment — on track
  • Life expectancy — off track
  • Child mortality rates — off track
  • Employment — off track
  • Reading and numeracy — off track
  • School attendance — off track

The disappointing results come amid a restructure of the Closing the Gap framework underway between the Commonwealth, states and Indigenous peak organisations.

“We now have an equal say, along with governments,” Ms Turner said.

“We certainly expect in this next phase of Closing the Gap that the [health] investment will increase significantly.

“We’re determined that this time it’s going to be a very different kettle of fish.”

The Closing the Gap agenda was developed by the Rudd government to track progress in reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage in the areas of education, employment and health.

Mr Morrison said the Government had set about “fixing” the original framework.

“It didn’t genuinely bring on board states and territories in making sure they have accountabilities and sharing the objective and process with Indigenous Australians,” he said.

But Ms Burney was critical of the PM’s decision to revise the targets.

“Those targets were realistic and appropriate and remain so today,” the Indigenous MP said.

“Labor has argued there should be additional targets. There should be a justice target and a target around the removal of Aboriginal children.”

Mr Morrison emphasised achievements had been made despite the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians not closing.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are living longer, the Prime Minister said, and children are staying in school for longer.

Topics:

government-and-politics,

distance-education,

education,

indigenous-policy,

indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander,

australia

First posted

February 14, 2019 10:28:20



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