Wednesday 22 March 2017
It was exciting to welcome the Gonski bus to Parliament House today after it had travelled through the Central Coast and across much of Australia. Special thanks to Correna Haythorpe, Federal President of the Australian Education Union, your members and supporters, and the principals and parents from across Australia who are giving their time to be in Canberra today, sharing Gonski success stories.
I 'give a Gonski' because needs based funding is making a difference in schools on the Central Coast. At The Entrance Public School, extra funding provides a teacher for their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program and a dedicated classroom for coding and robotics. At Wyong Creek Public School, it has meant more teacher aides. Valley View Public School's 'instructional leadership' program is developing and mentoring teachers. Wadalba Community School now has a speech therapist, and Kanwal Public School has six additional student learning support officers. Needs based funding makes this happen. Needs based funding means principals and schools are leading change in their schools and in our communities.
I recently held a round table with Labor's shadow assistant minister for schools, the member for Scullin. We heard from principals, teachers, support workers and parents about the Central Coast experience. We heard from MacKillop Catholic College, Warnervale, whose 2015 dux was a young man with high-functioning autism who, under the guidance of Sue Small and the learning support unit, received the extra support he needed to succeed. We heard from St Mary's Primary School, Toukley, whose positive partnership between ASPECT teachers and other staff has developed the understanding of all educators at the school. We heard from Wyong Christian Community School, where all students benefit from sharing their school journey together with students with disability.
However, there is much more to do, particularly for students with disability. This is an absolute priority area for Labor. We simply cannot continue to fail this group of Australian children. For many families, primary school is the first time there has been a conversation about their child's learning style and how it is different. On the Central Coast, families are waiting months to see specialists such as paediatricians or psychiatrists, which means funding to schools and early intervention for their child are unnecessarily delayed. We also heard of increased mental health issues in teenage years. Secondary schools are on the front line. Teachers are not mental health workers, but they are an integral part of students' lives and they need support during these critical years. I am determined to work with them to better support students in our schools.
I thank the member for Scullin for coming to the Central Coast and listening to my community. Most importantly, I thank the schools in my electorate for sharing their stories and their challenges. This is important work.