Pages tagged "Education"

  • Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014

    I rise to outline my strong opposition to the government's Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014. I declare straight out that I had a free university education. I would correct the member for Herbert: I have not heard one Labor member suggest in a speech given today that university education should be completely free—not one—and those assertions do not do this place justice. This government continues to be full of surprises, despite their assertions before the election. The higher education bill confirms that this government has introduced cuts to every level of education, from child care all the way through to postgraduate study. Combined, these decisions act to entrench inequity at all levels of education. This is done while those opposite scream at our young people: 'You must earn or learn.' Today's legislation closes the loop on access and equity in education and makes the ability of young people in this country to meet that demand so much harder.

    These changes will again hit low- and middle-income families and will risk locking people from my community out of university. In Lalor, people of all ages want to talk about this unfair change. Families are seriously looking at their options to assess if university is possible for their children, and, meanwhile, the minister cruelly quips that he is not asking for their left kidney. No, just their future. Here we see the final nail in the coffin. With this bill they have basically told people in Lalor to just give up. They have closed the door on opportunity. Andrea Toohey, a resident of Lalor, wrote to me this morning and said:

    Joanne my son has been working long hrs at Coles during his gap year to help support himself at Uni in Ballarat next yr. He may need to keep working for a long while yet? It's a shame to think his career choice may be totally out of reach.

    This bill threatens to lock people out of future prosperity.

    The member for Herbert has left, but I would point out a discriminatory difference regarding some of the assertions that he made. Governments may have to bring in legislation beyond an election. That is not what we are talking about. We are talking about a government that made promises—plural—before an election and is now breaking them. Despite the promises, it acted to the contrary. On education, the Prime Minister said:

    … I want to give people this absolute assurance, no cuts to education …

    I cannot count the number of times I have heard it repeated. That was on 1 September 2013—that is, before the election. On universities, he said:

    If we have to change it, we will consult beforehand rather than impose it unilaterally and argue about it afterwards.

    It is clear to me that that spoke to an intent. That was in February 2013. It could not be clearer, really. Minister Pyne said:

    We want university students to make their contribution, but we're not going to raise fees …

    That was in November 2013—emphatic, after the election. When the interviewer asked, 'Why not raise university fees?' Minister Pyne said:

    Because we promised we wouldn't before the election …

    Doubly emphatic, even after the election. My favourite quote of all would have to be from their own Liberal Party policy document. Even when he puts things in writing, you cannot rely on what the Prime Minister says. In their 'Real Solutions' policy document, in chapter 17, page 40 and 41, they say:

    We will ensure the continuation of the current arrangements of university funding.

    That is in writing: 'current arrangements will continue'. That is right: the document is called 'Real Solutions'. It seems to have gone from the memories of those opposite. It was the contract they put to the Australian people, but it was not real; it reflects the fantasy they took to the election.

    Actions speak louder than words, and this bill proves once again that they were an opposition prepared to promise anything to get into power and now they are a government that cannot be trusted to keep their word. What they fail to understand is the real impact the decisions they are making are having on the Australian people. What they fail to understand is that these measures are unfair.

    Let me go through this bill. It strips money away from universities and gives them no choice but to hit students with higher fees. This bill will see $100,000-plus university degrees. It rips $5.8 billion out of Australian universities. This bill adds to the Abbott and Hockey rap sheet of cruel, unfair cuts. There are $3.2 billion in cuts by taking the scalpel to HELP; $1.9 billion in cuts to universities by reducing government course subsidies; $202 million in cuts by indexing university grants to the CPI; $172.4 million in cuts to fund, promote and reward universities for enrolling low-SES students; $173.7 million in cuts to the training of Australia's research students—the scientists and academics of tomorrow; a $75 million cut to the Australian Research Council; a $31 million cut to the national regulator; and it abolishes the $3.5 billion Education Investment Fund. That is quite a resume. But that is only the beginning. What we have now seen in addition is the full deregulation of student fees from 1 January 2016, which will lead to higher fees and spiralling student debt, and there is the increase in the interest rate burden on that student debt. Most alarming, though, is that the fantasy continues opposite. Members opposite deny people will be deterred under this so-called reform. This could not be further from the truth.

    I have spent most of my adult life working in secondary schools in my electorate where the majority of people are what we would call traditional working-class families. For most of those years, I taught senior English to year 11 and 12 students, and I was a senior years coordinator for many years. I know from personal experience what it takes to build aspiration in students, to build confidence and to get them to open their eyes to the possibilities their talents and potential can lead to. I have worked with students and their parents to look seriously at tertiary education as an option. Many of the students who left my care were the first in their families to attend university. One of the biggest hurdles in this was income—families had to forgo a working young person's contribution to the family income. They had to overcome the idea of a reasonable debt, with a payback safety net, as a means to an end to a brighter future. I call on all students from low socioeconomic circumstances in my electorate and across the country who made it to university to stand up and defend the next generation's ability to do so.

    Just this year I heard the compelling story of a student who was being supported by Western Chances, a not-for-profit organisation that supports senior secondary students to get to university in the western suburbs of Melbourne. This student is now completing medicine at Monash University. She detailed how hard it was to ask for money in her family when her father had been laid off at work—money for books and excursions. She thought uni was out of reach despite her teachers having identified her talent. Here was a student, clearly identified as being among the brightest and the best, who without help from a not-for-profit did not think she would get to university. With support, she got the books she needed and some tutoring in targeted subjects to ensure she met the tertiary requirements—that subject, in her case, was English. She got to university and she is now a second-year medical student.

    But where would she have been now with the government's changes? Indeed, how is she responding to the idea that the interest rate on her HELP debt will increase and compound? How will these changes impact on her future life choices? Most importantly, would she make the same decisions today and will next year's brightest students in the same position make the same decisions? The fact is that those who will be the most deterred by this reform package are from working class families in electorates like mine. What we have seen with this bill is yet another significant barrier being put in place for those seeking long-term prosperity through education.

    Some residents of my electorate wrote to me this morning when I said I was going to be making a speech on higher education today. Heather Taylor said:

    Many opportunities for students who are bright and intelligent will be lost if higher fees are brought in. University should be an option for all who are capable of passing the enter scores, not just for those who can afford it.

    Yajaira, a former student of mine, said:

    These changes are just going to put more pressure on young high school students to decide what they want to do their entire future. These things have the potential to affect someone's entire life!

    She wanted that read in the chamber today. She wanted those opposite to hear her voice. And Janine Luttick made a really important point:

    Increases in undergraduate and postgrad fees will preclude mature-age students from ever paying off their debt during their working life. That makes tertiary education only for the young and the rich. Threats to funding for research students will mean the contributions of some of the nation's best minds to the development of our quality of life will be lost.

    These fine people deserve a government that will provide them with real opportunities. And they had a government that provided them with real opportunities—they had a Labor federal government. The fundamental principles of the Labor Party could not be further removed from the measures put forward in this draconian bill. Labor does not support cuts to university funding and student support. Labor does not support a system of higher fees, bigger student debt, reduced access and greater inequality. And Labor does not believe that you should only have an opportunity to go to university if you are rich. When Labor was in government we removed the caps on public university places. From 2009 to 2013 the number of Commonwealth supported places went from 440,000 to 541,000. In my electorate, that saw an increase of more than 50 per cent in the number of students attending university and a 48 per cent increase in the number of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Under Labor they had opportunity. But under this government they are having the door shut in their face.

    The people of Lalor are rightly confused by a government that is ripping away our social compacts, that disregards the community benefit of the best and brightest attending university to ensure that their contribution to our society and to our economy is maximised—not just for their benefit but for all. We are hearing a lot about international competition. We are hearing people say that Australia's universities need to be able to compete. It is as though tertiary education fishes at Australia's border. But one of the unforeseen things that could happen with this reform is that we might find more of our best and brightest studying overseas without any intention of returning to make a contribution here.

    I will finish with a question that I have asked in this House a few times, a question that young people have asked me to ask the Prime Minister: why is it that some debt is so bad but student debt is so good? I reject this bill and will firmly stand against it in this House.

  • Higher education cuts

    There will be no surprise today that I rise to speak about higher education. Before the election this government promised no cuts to education. The higher education bill introduced today confirms that this government has introduced cuts to every level of education, from child care through to postgraduate study. The Minister for Education introduced into the House today legislation that will negatively change the face of higher education in this country. He did this in the wake of a budget that acts to entrench inequity at all levels of education. He did this while the government ushers in draconian cuts to Newstart eligibility, apprenticeship support programs and supported access to TAFE programs. He did this while those opposite scream at our young people, 'You must earn or learn!'

    Today's legislation closes the loop on access to equity in education and makes the ability of young people in this country to meet that demand so much harder. The changes again hit low- and middle-income families and risk locking young people from my community out of university. In Lalor, people of all ages want to talk about this unfair change. Families are seriously looking at their options to assess if university is possible for their children, and meanwhile the minister cruelly quips that he is not asking for their left kidney. This is an outrageous move by this minister. It includes a 20 per cent cut to university funding and will see fees rise and students burdened. My question to the prime minister is simple: why is some debt bad but student debt good?

  • Student Representative Council Forum

    Today I rise to talk about the second SRC forum held in my electorate in the recess. The forum was attended by over 130 primary and secondary school students representing schools from across the electorate and followed on from the inaugural forum in April.

    The April forum put forward a range of planned outcomes, from getting a deeper sense of our community to learning about consultation and listening. The follow-up forum in August showed me the students had made significant progress in these outcomes, with many going above and beyond their planned projects.

    These SRC forums have proven to be an extremely worthwhile exercise for the students, for the teachers and, obviously, for me. Students harnessed this opportunity to learn from other schools about how they tackle common problems. Many students found a common problem they have is litter in the school grounds. This, of course, came as no surprise to me. Some schools tackle this with games and competitions, which provided ideas to other students on how they could deal with the issue. Teachers noted the leadership shown by their students and their contributions back at school over recent months.

    For me, this experience has been extremely rewarding. I have learned from the students about the experience they have as individuals at school and about the challenges we all face as a collective community. The feedback from the students was very positive and their reflections on leadership and representation were thoughtful and insightful. Everyone in the electorate of Lalor can be very proud of their students' contributions. I look forward to the next forum. (Time expired)

  • Abbott’s school cuts hit Lalor harder than anywhere else

    New analysis of the Government’s own figures, released recently, shows Tony Abbott’s cuts will leave schools in the electorate of Lalor $277 million worse off over the next decade – the biggest hit to any community in Australia.

    The Abbott Government’s Budget cut $80 billion from schools and hospitals – with $30 billion of that coming directly from schools.

    “This is the biggest ever cut to our schools, with $30 billion to be ripped from classrooms over the next decade,” Kate Ellis, Shadow Education Minister, said.

    “This community has a young and growing population, meaning we will be the worst hit area in the country.” Joanne Ryan, Member for Lalor, said.

    “The impact of these cuts are very real - every student will get $1,000 less support, every year.”

    These cuts are the equivalent to sacking one in seven teachers and will mean a cut to the average school of $3.2 million.

    “Students will miss out on the individual support they need, including literacy and numeracy programs, sport, music and extra teachers,”

    “Tony Abbott’s cuts are being felt in our classrooms now, with principals simply unable to begin new programs because these massive cuts are hanging over their heads.”

    “Our teachers want to continue improving our schools, not trying to find ways to deal with the biggest ever cuts to our schools.”

    Kate Ellis and Joanne Ryan are calling on principals, teachers, parents and students to get involved and stand up against school cuts.

    The cuts announced in the Budget mean there is no funding for the vital fifth and sixth years of the Gonski reforms and restrict indexation to CPI from 2018. With the ABS Education Price Index currently at 5.1 per cent, that will mean a significant and compounding cut in real terms.

    “This just goes to show that Tony Abbott really doesn’t get what is important to local families and that’s making sure our children get a great education so they have the best opportunities in life,” Joanne Ryan said.

    Joanne Ryan said it was time Dennis Napthine found his voice and stood up for Victoria, instead of quietly complying with Tony Abbott’s destructive agenda.

    “He should stop covering for his political mate, Tony Abbott, and put our schools first,” Joanne Ryan said.

    Kate Ellis said Labor was committed to the Gonski school reforms.

    “Labor will fight so that every child can get the individual support they need, no matter where they go to school,” Kate Ellis said.

  • Ryan urges Napthine Government to support local schools

    Joanne Ryan, has written to Victorian Premier Denis Napthine urging the Victorian Liberal Government to come to the party and provide much needed funding to Lalor Schools.

    The Federal Labor Government invested heavily to provide capital funding to local schools under the Building the Education Revolution program, but unfortunately more funding is needed.

    “Wyndham is a high growth area and as predicted, has reached a milestone 200,000 residents in July this year. This growth will continue with an average of 80 babies born locally each week.

    “This high growth makes infrastructure spending on schools, both new and existing, critical for the region’s future.

    “While Federal Labor invested heavily in education across our region, we have seen our local schools now neglected by State and Federal Liberal Government’s,” Federal Member for Lalor Joanne Ryan said.

    “This capital funding, combined with well-targeted support for disadvantaged and Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) students is so important for the education outcomes of our community.

    “The Victorian Government needs to support the local school communities who have been sorely neglected over the past three years in recurrent, capital and maintenance expenditure. Many of our aging schools are in desperate need of funding to upgrade facilities to a standard acceptable for our students.

    The increased need of funding for local schools is exasperated by the Abbott Government’s failure to guarantee that no school will be worse off as part of their election cuts.

  • LeadWest Education Report

    I rise to inform the House of a report by Dr Ruth Morton, commissioned by LeadWest, on young people aged between 10 and 14 of the western suburbs of Melbourne who are falling out of school. This report, using Census data, identified the alarming situation where 2,680 students—that is, six per cent—across six LGAs, including my electorate, are not attending school. Educators worked tirelessly to follow up on absences and adopt processes to ease the transition for students moving from primary to secondary school. Many schools employ attendance officers and welfare officers to provide the much needed support to students and families to keep students engaged at school. Whilst national partnerships money has supported this work in recent years and allowed success stories of re-engagement, transition and improved attendance for at-risk students, federal cuts to this funding will impact negatively. There has been a failure to understand that schools receive no specific funding for this critical work. Without funding, more vulnerable young children aged 10 to 14 will drop out of the system.

    I commend Mr Craig Rowley, CEO of LeadWest, and Dr Ruth Morton for their work and commitment to the development of this report. I am sure that schools and local councils will be pleased to see the issue highlighted and would welcome any support from governments to reduce the number of such young students not attending school at such a critical time in their development.

  • Shadow Minister for Education meets with Wyndham Principals

    Joanne Ryan, Federal Member for Lalor and Shadow Minister for Education, Kate Ellis, meet with Wyndham School Principals today to discuss the impact of the Federal Budget on local schools.

    As a former principal, I was keen for Kate to hear directly from the principals in this area and hear firsthand about the impact on our schools.

    This time last year, schools were excited about the future for education. The education funding debate had been deep. The National Partnerships had made a difference, student outcomes were improving. The focus was on every student, in every school achieving their potential and this great work would continue.

    Principals today expressed concerned for their schools;

    • what will the future hold for the school budget?
    • Will they be able to continue employing a literacy or numeracy specialist?
    • will there be additional funding for students with a learning disability,
    • will they need to axe programs,
    • do they need the lose teachers and support staff?
    • can the parents contribute more,
    • how many fundraisers can we have?

    The Gonski funding review was undertaken in a deep and measured way.

    It was sector blind and student focused.

    It showed a way forward. This year’s Victorian budget was silent on Gonski funding, this week’s Federal Budget just rips money away.

    It’s all bad news and worse still, there is absolutely no certainty. This is a Budget of broken dreams and twisted priorities. Our students deserve better.

  • Local Education Funding

    At this time last year, in the staff room of the school where I was principal and in staffroom conversations across sectors and across the country, Gonski funding was on the horizon and the optimism was palpable. We were excited the education debate had been so deep. The national partnerships had made a difference. Student outcomes were improving. The focus was on every student in every school achieving their potential and we hoped this great work would continue. During the election campaign we were reassured by the member for Sturt when he said there was a unity ticket for school funding. This morning the picture is different, especially for Victorian schools. Today, I feel for every school principal and every school council president. I suspect the conversations are now very different: what does it mean for stage II of the building program; what will the future hold for the school budget; are we going to be able to keep the literacy specialist; will there be funding for students with a learning disability; will we need to axe programs; can the parents contribute more; how many fundraisers can we have?

    The Gonski funding review was undertaken in a deep and measured way. It was sector-blind and student-focused. It showed a way forward. Last week's Victorian budget was silent on Gonski and this week's federal budget just rips money away. It is all bad news and, worse still, there is no certainty. This is a budget of broken promises and twisted priorities. For Victorian schools this is a budget of broken dreams.

  • Cambridge Primary School

    On 17 February this year, I visited Cambridge Primary School in my electorate. I commend the Principal, Meenah Marchbank, for leading this school on an amazing improvement journey. In 2002, the school was accredited as an international school by the European Council of International Schools; it is the first primary school globally to be accredited by this organisation.

    I met assistant principals Nella Cascone and Craig Spry and the School Council President, Reg Stott—a very proud fireman and involved father. In the BER building—a new, fantastic gymnasium, which the school uses every day—I met with the newly elected school leaders and presented them with their captain badges. Cambridge Primary School captains for this year are Neesha Howarth and Deshan Vitharana Pathirana. I talked to them about leadership and about the fact that it is not always the best speaker or the first to stand up for a job who is the best leader but rather someone who their peers think will represent the school community well.

    I walked away feeling buoyed by the enthusiasm and encouragement that the children receive at Cambridge Primary School from their incredibly professional staff and from their families. I wish the leaders a successful year, and I hope they carry the experiences and lessons learnt into their futures.

  • Iramoo Primary School Visit

    Last week I had the opportunity to again visit the very impressive Iramoo Primary School, in Wyndham Vale, named after the Wurundjeri people's word for the stretch of land upon which my electorate is situated. I was there to stand with Principal Moira Findlay and congratulate the newly announced school leadership team. It included school captains Tevita Sopu and Courtney Wenlock as well as vice-captains Jacob Bowen and Lisa Gill. I was there to wish them well in their roles.

    It was great to see family and friends attending. One mother, Lesieli Sopu, was particularly proud, as her three boys, Tevita, Andrew and Isikeli, were appointed school captain, house captain and flag raiser. The smile on her face made my week.

    The flag ceremony at Iramoo Primary School is treated with great respect, and the flag raiser role is an important one. Along with the blue ensign, the school will variously raise the Torres Strait Islander flag, the Aboriginal flag and the Victorian state flag. I really enjoyed the national anthem played by the band and sung—both verses—by the student body. I was also able to visit the grade 5 literacy group, who were working on narratives and sizzling starts.

    It is a great privilege to visit local schools to encourage students in their civics and citizenship and to acknowledge great leaders, already, in grade 6.