Friday, 8 February 2013

Speech: 5th Anniversary Breakfast of the National Apology



So What’s Going Wrong with Education?

5th Anniversary Breakfast of the National Apology

Friday, 8 February
Government House, Sydney

Thankyou.
And thank you for that kind introduction. And to the first Australians here, I acknowledge you. As members of the oldest containing culture on earth and to all of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters here with us this morning, thank you for being with us and sharing your lives and all its pain with us as well. You do us a great honour by being here today.

To the Governor, Marie, we love you. To Nick. We love you too. In her Governorship which still has a way to run, Marie Bashir has become the national embodiment of the spirit of inclusion. And I would like to acknowledge that here this morning.

Premier, thank you for your bipartisan support of reconciliation. To the Minister, to the Shadow Minister Marise Payne, thank you for your bipartisan support as well. My friend and colleague Richard Marles, other Ministers who are here.
To the members of the business community, thank you for being practical supporters of reconciliation when it’s not in the headlines. Doing it through those who you provide jobs, those who you mentor and those whose lives as a consequence you change.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
So after five years, what has changed?
To get a sense of this, I spoke this week with an Aboriginal family in Melbourne this week and asked them that question.
These were members of the Stolen Generations. I spoke with them; I spoke with their children, together with their burbling four and a half year old granddaughter playing in the background.
Kutcha had been taken away from his mum in 1967 as an 18 month old baby.
His sister Alice said that her now deceased mother had lost 46 years of her life.
They both said that while the day of the Apology itself five years ago had unlocked torrents of emotion, because at last there had been an official acknowledgement of the wrong that had been done, the sheer pain of separation all those years ago could never really be completely erased.
And we’ve heard that again this morning, eloquently, from Nancy and Uncle Emmanuel.
The truth is that they are absolutely right.
I know for a fact that if it was me, I doubt that the delivery of the speech, however fine, however elegant, or inelegant, could somehow magically extinguish the pain of a lifetime.
For those of you who work in the Healing Foundation, thank you for being at the coal face of this important work of the soul.
When I was speaking with this Aboriginal family earlier in the week, I was then thrown on the back foot when their daughters flipped the question in reverse: "Five years on, Kevin, how did you feel about the Apology?"
Of course, being the good public policy guy that I am, I said that the really important change for the long term was closing the gap: the political commitment, the allocation of resources, and most importantly the measurement through the annual report card to the Parliament.
Sort of thing I am often ridiculed for saying. I’m a measurement guy.
But once again the answer came: “That's all very fine Kevin, but how did you feel about the Apology?"
I said that I felt that for the Apology to be effective it had to be real; it had to be genuine and it had to be delivered from me as a white Australian male who came to these shores more than two hundred years ago through is forbears, and who had been a physical part of the dispossession of aboriginal people.
Just as to be effective, the Apology had to come from me who as at that time, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and therefore responsible for the nation’s laws, past and present, good and bad, that had made this dispossession possible.
Therefore, for the Apology to be effective could not simply be some sort of abstraction.
It couldn’t simply be palmed off as the responsibility of a bunch of dead white males back in the recesses of Australian history.
In other words, to be effective, the Apology had to be personal, political and institutional. All three.
History of course will be the final judge as to whether all of this works or not.
But the judgment I made then, and the judgment I hold to today is that in order to advance the practical processes of reconciliation, the emotional relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia had to be repaired.
In the age of rational man, it is often assumed that feelings don’t mater. Only thoughts matter. Reason. And, of course, action.
But I don’t know about you Barry, but the longer I am in public life, I understand that feelings matter profoundly; that spiritual damage is real; that there is such a thing as a wounding of the soul; and unless these profound and continuing realities are dealt with, cooperation at a ‘practical level’ is bound to superficial, transient, and constructed on unstable foundations.
The Apology, therefore, in its most elemental dimensions, was a spiritual transaction between those who were wronged and those responsible for these wrongs.
It was a necessary foundation for the future.
A future where “closing the gap” in fact becomes both personally and politically possible.
It’s a bit like this: the Apology without a program to close the gap would be a dead letter. Just as closing the gap without the Apology would in all essential respects become a lifeless, transactional exercise without any real embrace from our Aboriginal brothers and sisters because of the hurt that had been done.
Closing the Gap – The Beginning
The process and the reality of reconciliation involve all these elements.
The Apology. First of all.
Second, the commitment to closing the gap around specific and measureable targets across education, health, employment and life expectancy.

Third, a formal legal agreement between the Commonwealth and the States which I signed in Darwin on behalf of the Commonwealth with all the States and that Territories as National Partnership Agreement on closing the gap, the first of its kind in the nations’ history, across all levels of government involving national objectives, national programs and national resources, all agreed.
Fourth, it involved the upfront commitment of financial resources, some $5.4 billion over time.
Fifth, it involved the re-organisation of Commonwealth agencies in order to ensure we had our own house in order particularly in relation to the delivery of services to remote communities through the establishment of the Office of the Coordinator-General for these functions within the Commonwealth bureaucracy.
Sixth, as Prime Minster I committed future governments to a formal annual process of accountability to the nation’s Parliament through the delivery of the annual Closing the Gap Statement including, as I said back then, our successes and, most importantly, our failures reaching the targets we have set within the timeframe specified based on a robust set of data which, until then, as Jenny Macklin knows, didn’t really exist.
Seventh, I also committed the Commonwealth to a referendum of an act of formal constitutional recognition of the place of the first Australians in our foundational legal document as a nation.
The business of reconciliation is all these things.
All are important.
And within them, the criticality and the physicality of closing the gap remains central.
Let us remind ourselves briefly of what the objectives were that what we set for ourselves as a nation in a formal and solemn compact with the first Australians -
1.      To close the life-expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians within a generation;
2.      To halve the mortality rate between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and other children under age 5 within a decade;
3.      To halve the gap in literacy and numeracy achievement between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and other students within a decade;
4.      To halve the gap in employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within a decade;
5.      To at least halve the gap in attainment at Year 12 schooling (or equivalent level) by 2020; and
6.      To provide all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four year olds in remote communities with access to a quality preschool program within five years.

Improving Indigenous Education
As the Minister has just reported to you and as the Prime Minister did earlier in the week, much progress has been made. Most particularly in the area of early childhood education. But in other areas as well. 
But as the Prime Minister correctly pointed out in her statement this week, the target which is causing us the greatest concern is that which measures literacy and numeracy levels across the Indigenous student population.
It’s important that we put this in some statistical perspective to underline the dimensions of the challenge we face.
Of the 548,000 Indigenous Australians, 162,000 are of student age.

Across the nation, there are some 900 remote schools which we focus on which account for more than half of total primary school enrolments and a third of total school enrolments.
Furthermore, 25% of Indigenous Australians live in remote areas. My point with this is just to underline one important statistical fact, that these represent significant numbers. That is why the most recent literacy and numeracy data is most disturbing.
Let me take you through the data.
Reading
The results of the reading trends are most disappointing. In 2008, 68.3 per cent of Indigenous students in Year 3 were meeting the minimum standard. In 2011, this rose to 76.3 per cent. But, in 2012, the trend reversed, albeit slightly, and fell to just 74.2 per cent.
The Year 5 results have flat-lined, with only a one per cent improvement between 2008 and 2012, while Year 7 students produced a small increase from 71.9 per cent to 75.4 per cent over the four year period.
As for Year 9 students, 70.7 per cent of Indigenous students reached the baseline standard in 2008, compared to just 64.2 per cent in 2010 and 67.2 per cent in 2012.
Writing
Let’s look at writing.
The 2012 NAPLAN results indicate that 78.3 per cent of Indigenous students in Year 3 were above the National Minimum Standard compared to 96.4 per cent of non-Indigenous students.
In Year 5, the gaps are almost as wide with 66.3 per cent of Indigenous students reaching the minimum ranking compared to 93.6 per cent of non-Indigenous students.

With Year 7 students, the gap was similar with 63.7 per cent of Indigenous students achieving the benchmark compared to 91.4 per cent of non-Indigenous kids.
Only 48.8 per cent of Year 9 Indigenous students reached this benchmark, compared with 83.4 per cent for non-Indigenous students.
Numeracy
It’s in numeracy, however, where we have a very large problem.
In 2008, 78.6 per cent of Year 3 Indigenous students achieved the minimum standards for numeracy. In 2012, only 72.7 per cent had met these targets.
For Year 5 students, the percentage of Indigenous students at or above the minimum standards remained the same at 69.2 per cent.
In 2008, 78.6 per cent of Year 7 students met the baseline targets, compared to 96.4 per cent of non-Indigenous students. Four years later, this same group had fallen to just 74.4 per cent.
A similar result can be seen for Year 9 students, with 72.5 per cent reaching the baseline in 2008, compared to 74.2 per cent last year.
So what’s the problem with education?
From the available documentation it’s difficult to conclude why we seem to be recording a declining performance in literacy and numeracy - or perhaps a static performance.
One argument is that with improved data capture, and improved reporting, we now have a better handle on the depth of the problem. The data was not as robust earlier on.
In other words, the earlier data may simply have painted a rosier picture than the reality. Alternatively, literacy and numeracy may in fact objectively, in some parts of the country, be getting worse.

It is important that we maintain an open but rigorous mind across these possibilities.
What we do know is that the risk factors associated with literacy and numeracy performance are formidable.
Risk factors
According to the most recent Remote Service Delivery Report, two key Western Australian research studies by the Institute for Child Health Research concluded that a child’s education is at risk if they miss more than half a day of school a week or they have less than 90 per cent attendance.
Among the remote communities, the average school attendance rate is 66 per cent, with Walgett in New South Wales achieving the highest rate of attendance at 90 per cent. Anyone here from Walgett? Pat yourself on the back. Yuendumu in the Northern Territory performing the worst at just 38 per cent.
This same report illustrates that poor attendance may be the most important feature to account for the dismal results in Indigenous literacy and numeracy across the nation.
The critical policy question, therefore, becomes one of what are the core causative factors driving different attendance levels in different part of Indigenous Australia.
We are all familiar with the list of possible factors: overcrowded housing, inadequate sleep, poor nutrition, domestic violence, lack of transport, a lack of adequate school feeder systems.
We are also familiar with a range of factors which by corollary are likely to boost the attractiveness of school attendance: school feeding programs; individual mentor programs; personalised study plans; quality of teaching staff; the availability of sporting and cultural programs to supplement the pedagogy; and supervised homework programs within the school environment.
Across the nation, there is a range of policy responses underway including
·         the recruitment, training and deployment of 200 extra teachers in remote communities as well as programs to increase the number of qualified Indigenous teachers;
·         The Teach Remote Initiative;
·         The Teach Learn Share website;
·         The Personalised Learning Plans Initiative;
·         The School Enrolment and Attendance Measures;
·         The Learn Earn Legend Initiative;
·         The Sporting Chance Program;
·         The Parental and Community Engagement Program;
·         The National School Nutrition Program;

And then there are those which apply to particular regions:
·         The Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy;
·         Three new boarding facilities in the Northern Territory funded by the Commonwealth Government to assist students from remote communities to complete Year 12;
·         The Clontarf Academy which now has 2,850 kids across more than 30 academies.
·         Future Footprints in Western Australia which graduated 35 Year 12 students in 16 participating schools in Western Australia; and
·         The Australian Indigenous Education Foundation boarding school and tertiary residential college scholarships which currently support 350 Indigenous students from remote communities across 33 of the nation’s leading boarding schools, students including Kygim (Kii-gym) King, Sarah Treacy and Nahdia Noter all of whom are with us today.
We’ll see what they’ve got to say about their own experience in a minute.
But with all these programs, including this one and others that the State and Federal Governments are backing, you see real progress but the statistical challenge is huge.
Nahdia, give us your 30 seconds on what this has meant for you.

NAHDIA NOTER – Getting the scholarship to go to St Vincent’s College, a boarding school at Potts Point, has changed my life completely. So I’m 21 now, I got offered the chance to go back to school when I was 19 and I was offered the scholarship when I was in the juvenile justice system. So, going back to school was a big challenge but to do it at that age as well and to come from where I was. I wasn’t allowed to tell the other students at school where I had been, so that was tough, too, because I felt ashamed of who I was and where I had been. I felt that it was hard. But now I am not ashamed of it and I am actually proud to say it because people need to know that is doesn’t matter about where you have been, it matters where you’re going and what you want to do with your future.

If it wasn’t for the support of the AIEF being their constantly throughout my schooling, there is no way I would have been able to do it. And if it wasn’t for Kevin, in 2008 they donated $20 million dollars to AIEF and the AIEF matched that. Andrew, who started it on his own, he’s a great man. And all of the staff at AIEF are very supportive, they are just lovely. They continue to support me now. I just finished year 12. I’ve gone back in the last couple of weeks five or six times to get help with my enrolment for uni. So they are always there for you no matter what. They don’t stop supporting you. And it’s programs like this that make the difference and programs like this that need to be supported.

That’s Nahdia, she’s from Tweed Heads and she’s here to help. We call that Southern Queensland, Barry.
Who’s next? Kygim?

KYGIM KING – I received a scholarship in 2009. Like Nahdia it has changed my life. I think receiving the scholarship has really showed me how important an education is and how much we need to push the younger people to stick in school, stay there. It has also showed me that we can be where we want to be. From a young age I have always wanted to be a lawyer. I am going into my second year with UTS. And I think that receiving that scholarship has helped me be where I am now.

Thank you to Andrew and the rest of the staff. Thank you to Mr Rudd for donating the money that has enabled us to get the scholarship.
Well done.
And now Sarah, from Broome. The great state of Western Australia.

SARAH TREACY – I’m Sarah and I am from Broome in Western Australia. And basically getting the AIEF scholarship meant the absolute world to me. The same as Nahdia, it basically changed my life. I came from Broome. I travelled all the way to Sydney just not knowing. Leaving all of my family – we are very close. Just not knowing what I was getting into. The AIEF, the Foundation, has opened up my eyes. I had always wanted to do primary school teaching but coming over to a big school with only two other Aboriginal students when I went there. It has opened my eyes and now I want to go back into the Kimberly region in Western Australia and teach in the remote communities to give back to my people. So thank you to them all for letting me have that opportunity.
The great thing about these guys is that I asked them to come and speak for 60 seconds just as we arrived for breakfast. I think they are terrific and they are great stories of hope.
All these individual stories are great stories of hope. But what I wanted to conclude by saying is that the task is massive. I said before there are 162 000 Indigenous Australians of school age around Australia.
We are turning the corner, but the challenges are massive.
My concluding thought is this: and it goes back to this question of literacy and numeracy and the fact that education is basic to the future of us all.
So the thought that I have is given where the data stands and given our resolve five years ago to reflect on our successes and reflect on where we are not doing so well, it’s perhaps time to bring together the best and the brightest in the country purely on this question of Indigenous education. Summits come, summits go. Conferences come, conferences go. And I know the educators get together all the time but I am worried about this piece of the data. So perhaps if Governments see it is appropriate, it is time to pull together a Summit on Indigenous Education to take the great learning experiences – where we are succeeding across the nation and where we are not succeeding as well. And to work out what are the best tailored responses to each Indigenous community – urban, remote, large and small – to make sure the stories you just heard become the stories for all of Indigenous Australia.
Herein lies the future of our reconciliation dream.  

18 comments:

  1. Well done Kevin and congratulations to those young people who are living their dream, as one young Lady said it doesn't matter where you have come from what matters is where you are going from here

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  2. Fabulous speech Kevin, and I hope you and the government will continue to be passionate about closing the gap. Well done for giving the three young ladies a chance to achieve.

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  3. Dicedplus,Evolvement after apology,
    is a pulchritude ,of love.
    Mr Rudd ,your devout dignification of our indigenous sovereign,is a conduit of vivific
    eternize,intergenerational contemplant can depullulation,upon, as monarchist belligerence,amurcous
    Title of our,3 million year old ,nucleus.
    OLD MAN OF THE BUSH,can examen ,this mirific convalesce,and pacation,as intergalactic,+qutakinder+,
    vraisemblance,unity as one cosmosurd
    of isonomy.plusdiced.

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  4. Perhaps some children do not have English as their first language, being brought up with the languages of their families, and thus they intrinsically put language together in a different way and use numbers in their own cultural way.
    I do not agree with the way indigenous students are compared statistically with non-indigenous students. The comparison is incorrect. Students learn at their own pace and if you test them above their level the result will not sound good.
    Is the style of education enabling the students to understand how the information they are learning relates to their real life?
    Acknowledging that Aboriginal people already are literate and numerate in their cultures and that non indigenous people have a lot to learn from them, could help to bridge the learning and understanding, which is the intention of education.
    As an example, I heard on TV, the Elder Aunty of that nation, invited to speak at the official ceremony in Melbourne after the terrible bush fires in Victoria some years ago. She said, "We burn the bush every seven years." I am yet to hear anyone respond to her words or take action. Why are we inviting our elders to open our ceremonies if we are not listening to their words and becoming educated by them too,

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  5. Come on Kevin you got stabbed in the back by Juliar , what the hell are you help her get back into power for , damn you must have a weird sence of idea on life!!!!!!!!!!

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