Tuesday, 21 June 2022
Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022
Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022
Ms KILKENNY (Carrum) (14:51): Before question time I was speaking on this bill, an education bill, and I was talking about the significant investment—more than $25 billion—made by the Andrews Labor government to support and to drive Victoria as the Education State. Of course we know that this includes building new schools, more than 100 of them, and upgrading more than 1850 schools across Victoria, including can I say every single government and Catholic school in my electorate. We are reforming our secondary school system, and this is something that is really exciting and really compelling, because we want to make sure that we are setting up our senior students for life and best supporting them for jobs of the future. We are reforming our vocational and applied learning, making sure that it is available to every secondary student wherever they go to school across Victoria. We know from next year we will have the first cohort of students who receive their VCE vocational major and the Victorian pathways certificate. This is tremendous reform. It is going to make an enormous difference in the lives of so many Victorian students. We are also aligning our VET with industry needs and employment pathways, and we are going to work with the commonwealth, the federal Labor government, on national skills reform.
We do this because we know that every single student, every single Victorian, has an equal right to gain the knowledge, the learnings, the skills, the experience they need to get the jobs that they want and of course the jobs that Victoria needs. We are talking about jobs that Victoria needs. We know from things like our Big Build, where we are transforming our road and rail networks, and the Suburban Rail Loop, the Metro Tunnel and the level crossing removals just how many thousands of new skilled jobs we are going to need for that.
If we are talking about jobs and education, I do want to mention what we were talking about earlier and what everyone is talking about, and that is our major announcement and our extraordinary reform to early childhood education and care in Victoria. This is a reform agenda of almost incomprehensible proportions. The significance and the benefits and the outcomes from this are quite extraordinary. They are far-reaching. They are generational. We have heard that making three- and four-year-old kinder free for families from next year will tremendously support Victorian families with their household budgets. We know moving to 30 hours of a pre-prep year for four-year-old children is going to unlock so many more people, particularly women, and support them getting back into the workforce, which is just going to significantly boost not only productivity here in Victoria but our economy and our state and of course independence for women. I do also want to acknowledge the Premier; the Minister for Early Childhood in the other place, Ingrid Stitt; the Minister for Women; and so many people who have worked tirelessly on this reform agenda. It is truly a $9 billion investment worth every single cent.
This is transformational news for our youngest Victorians, but we know that learning is for life, and this bill picks up on some of those matters, particularly education for adults. As I said, we are indebted to the member for Croydon, who took us through the very technical amendments in this bill. But this bill does recognise the importance of adult education and the importance of getting adult education right, because again it is making sure that those people in our community are best equipped to take advantage of the educational opportunities that are available for them and that lead them to pathways for future jobs as well.
Among other things, this bill will amend the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 in relation to the operation of the Adult, Community and Further Education Board—the ACFE board—and AMES Australia, which was previously known as Adult Multicultural Education Services. The bill before us will also do another thing, which is to allow the Minister for Education to appoint an acting member to the board of the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership. Obviously these are technical amendments, but they are necessary and important improvements to the government’s education and training system. That is because we want to make sure that this system of education and training is the best it can be so that we are supporting all learners wherever they are in that learning journey in their life to achieve their best and to develop the skills that they need for the best life possible.
In terms of the ACFE board, the bill before us will implement recommendations of the review of governance of ACFE in Victoria and help ACFE best meet its goals and aspirations. This is most aligned with Learn Locals and the tremendous organisations that support community members to gain confidence, to gain educational opportunities that they may not have had before. This is important work to enable ACFE to better implement its goals and aspirations.
The bill will also support AMES Australia. Again this is an extraordinary organisation, and it is fitting to speak about this in this Refugee Week. AMES Australia started back in 1951 with teachers who volunteered their time to support new migrants to Australia, whether it was with English or other skills, to best allow them to settle. It is really considered probably Australia’s pre-eminent settlement agency. Amendments in the bill will operate to recognise AMES Australia’s significant role and to emphasise one of its key functions—namely, to develop and provide specialist settlement services for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers here in Victoria as well as across Australia. I really want to commend AMES Australia for the extraordinary work that they do to support so many migrants here. I am really pleased that we are able to contribute to that work and to support them to further their work and help migrants settle here in Victoria.
Finally, there are amendments that relate to the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership. This is an extraordinary academy that is going to support some of our best teachers to further develop their skills and to pass on those skills and knowledge to support our Victorian students. I commend this bill. Again, this is about setting up Victoria as the Education State.
Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) (14:59): I rise to make a contribution on the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022. I will just pick up from where the previous speaker left off in terms of the importance of the many migrants that come to Victoria and are searching for that further education, that support, that language training and the other skills that they need to ensure that they can find a job and take their rightful place here in the community.
Particularly I want to raise some of the great work that a couple of my adult learning centres do in the electorate of Caulfield: firstly, the Glen Eira Adult Learning Centre under Philippa Caris and also the Caulfield South Community House under Tracey Burt. Here we have two centres whose work is absolutely focused on ensuring that the people that choose to come and settle in Victoria are provided with support, with awareness, with skills, with development and with training. In particular I know in both organisations they do a lot of great work in digital training: being able to use some of the technology to be able to search for jobs, to be able to put resumes together and to even be able to access a number of government services. The Glen Eira Adult Learning Centre has recently been running a whole lot of programs around health, particularly with the issues that we have all been going through in terms of awareness and vaccinations. I know that on Thursday they are doing a health forum about navigating the health system in Australia and the role of the GP and health checks—a whole range of that information is quite crucial. I want to give a special shout-out to both the Glen Eira Adult Learning Centre and the Caulfield South Community House and the work that they do in terms of training, particularly in ensuring that people who need those skills are provided with some.
I also want to raise some of the work that the local learning centres are doing in this space. This is really, really important. I think one of the things that we have been very focused on is the training that is provided, particularly when adults are looking at going back and being re-skilled to get a job—that that training ultimately leads to an employment outcome. One of those focuses is looking at what jobs might be available and matching skills to those jobs. I have met a number of times with the Bayside Glen Eira Kingston Local Learning and Employment Network, and they do a great job. I know the member for Sandringham is in here. He has had a number of meetings with them and has been working with them as well. This organisation has over 100 members in the Bayside, Glen Eira and Kingston LGAs, and it has a strong relationship with 33 secondary education providers and 100 local businesses. The work that they do is very much matching many of those students with real-life experience—giving them a real taste of work and hopefully being able to give them the skills necessary to get that job at the end of it. This is really important; it is absolutely crucial. I cannot speak highly enough of organisations like this that actually prepare young people for that work down the track in terms of whatever passion and career they want to enter into.
When we look at our education system and what we can do in terms of championing and transforming the education system, I know many of those from the government talk about the numberplate which talks about us being the Education State. I think the focus needs to be really on practising what we preach: more than just what is on a numberplate, what we can do in terms of transforming that education to ensure we give young people the skills necessary to follow their passions and to follow their dreams. That needs to be done at a very, very early stage and it needs to be championed all the way through.
I often talk about things like robotics and coding—a whole range of things which will enable many kids to again think in terms of what that future job might be. We talk about STEM, which is all about science, technology and engineering—those important elements. Some also refer to STEAM, which has the arts component as well—the creativity that is needed in terms of being able to think when utilising many of the skills that we have. Our education system needs to be transformative, relevant and ultimately able to ensure that young people are able to be creative thinkers and to be flexible, and that there is a job opportunity afterwards.
Certainly in my experience in the portfolio that I currently have for small business, with every business that I talk to that look at employing a young person, one of the things that they constantly say to me is that no matter what they have done, in many instances, whether it be school or university, there is a whole lot of reskilling and retraining that needs to happen because a lot of those basic skills are not learned. We need to get a better intersection between those skills that are necessary—ultimately help that young person have a stronger marriage between that—and the actual work environment they are looking or seeking to be in. That is where I think there probably has not been that intersection. I know there has been a lot of stuff in the training space that is all about registered training organisations effectively just pumping people through a system but not necessarily being able to train them in the areas where there is a real skill shortage and a real need.
So legislation changes are important, and I note that a number of those in the legislation that we are talking about today effectively clean up elements of the legislation, which we have constantly got to be doing. But I think what we are really in search of and what we really need and what we should be talking about in this chamber are some of the things that are going to be transformative, some of the things that really provide those young people and those businesses the real synergy to be able to get Victoria to a place where we are leading the game in so many different areas. If you look at places like Cremorne, where you have got a lot of tech and startup businesses that are doing a fantastic job, and you look at a lot of local businesses that have been created from that, things like Carsales, realestate.com.au, Seek—they are websites that employ hundreds of people and that have been created locally. Well, we have got to harness that. We have got to champion that. We have got to grow that.
I note that the Bayside Glen Eira Kingston Local Learning and Employment Network have been championing a program called the $20 Boss. This is a fantastic program which is providing enterprise and entrepreneurial education to give those young people the opportunity to actually take $20 and grow it. This has been around a while. The BGKLLEN actually are looking at making this special and scaling the work of this group to provide young people with disabilities the necessary skills to thrive in the new work order. I say that because this is great. This is where you have got, particularly, young people with a disability being able to learn those skills and being able to ultimately find employment and a job.
We have something here in Parliament that we have never done before, which is autism week. We have been recognising that, and I know, Deputy Speaker, you have done some important work in an inquiry which you have been involved in in this important space. This is great. These are the kinds of things that are transformational in terms of looking at those with special needs—those with autism—and giving them the opportunity to gain the skills necessary to find employment and take their rightful place in our community. I think we should be looking at training opportunities and support opportunities. The $20 Boss, which was very much mainstream—being able to take a mainstream program like that and operate it for those with special needs is terrific. We should be doing more of that. We should be encouraging more of that.
I want to give a shout-out to Amaze and all the groups in Parliament at the moment that are looking particularly at autism and how we can ensure that many of the features—not just training, which we are talking about today, but many of the broader areas around education support and services for those with autism—are properly supported. This is certainly a bill that we support, and I think we should be doing whatever we can to help those people that want to further their educational needs.
Ms HALL (Footscray) (15:09): It is an absolute pleasure to make a contribution to this bill. To echo the sentiments of the member for Caulfield, it is a very special week here in Parliament, with the Amaze organisation in here. I would like to thank them for all of the work they do for our neurodiverse young people in Victoria and for the autism community, and I acknowledge the Western Autistic School as well in this contribution about important education reforms.
This bill will make important improvements to the education and training system, including in relation to the modernisation, continuation and effective functioning of the Adult, Community and Further Education Board and AMES Australia—and I will speak a little bit about AMES Australia, who have a very proud history in my community of Footscray, and the powers and functions of the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority as a regulator of registered training organisations and the integrated sector regulator of schools, school boarding premises and other education providers for the child safe standards. The bill also modernises and simplifies the provisions regulating the use, access and disclosure of the Victorian student number.
AMES Australia will be familiar to many people in my community of Footscray. It was established in 1951, and AMES Australia arose from the work of hundreds of dedicated teachers who volunteered their time and skills to help new arrivals from postwar Europe to learn English and to settle in Australia. I think this is especially significant this week, which is Refugee Week. I know many of the organisations in my electorate of Footscray, including AMES, which is based in Barkly Street, and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, do so much to support our refugee and migrant community to establish themselves not just in my community in Melbourne’s inner-west but across Victoria.
The story of AMES in Footscray reflects the area’s history and waves of migration. At the time of its establishment, AMES Footscray was a hub mostly for Greek, Italian and former Yugoslavian migrants. In more recent times it has become a second home for Vietnamese and East African immigrants in Footscray. We know that one of the most important aspects of finding your place in a new country is being able to speak a shared language—it just makes those everyday activities so much easier—and AMES Australia has played a major role in successfully helping hundreds of thousands of new Australians with a range of settlement, English language and employment services. I would like to acknowledge all of the staff at AMES in Footscray and thank them for the work that they do every day in our community. They use a unique strength-based approach to successful settlement, recognising and harnessing the resilience of refugees and migrants and building on their personal strengths. This might not sound like much, but it is so important on a few really key levels. Rather than making new Australians feel disempowered, AMES looks at what they can do and where those skills can be applied in new contexts.
Education unlocks doors and changes lives. In my first speech in this place I spoke about education being the great leveller, and having access to high-quality public education is something that the Andrews Labor government is very proud of. We are the Education State, and in Footscray there is an absolute revolution happening in the provision of high-quality education. The Footscray learning precinct I think will be the envy of Australia. It incorporates Victoria University, Footscray High School, Footscray City Primary School and Footscray Primary School, and importantly in the last couple of weeks we have added a new piece to the Footscray learning precinct puzzle, which is the beautiful Billy Button learning centre, which is co-located with Footscray City Primary School. It is a 90-place long day care centre with three-year-old kinder and four-year-old kinder, and last week on that very important day when the Andrews Labor government announced a transformative $9 billion reform to early childhood learning in Victoria we opened the Billy Button centre. I was so pleased to have the minister from the other place, Minister Stitt, join me on such a monumental day for our littlest Victorians but also for predominantly the women of Australia, who during those crucial years often have to make the difficult choice about whether they can afford to go back to work or whether the cost of long day care and kinder does not make it stack up. It was such an important day, and to have that announcement of 50 new government-funded centres and a transition to a 30-hour play-based pre-prep year is just such a game changer. It is such an enormous social reform, but also an economic reform that I am very proud of. I know that the feedback from my community, from the families and women of Melbourne’s inner west, is that it will change their lives not just in terms of cost of living but in having their children access such a substantial amount of kinder. We know the evidence is there, and we have known it for a long time, but this is a really huge reform. I am so proud that it is happening and that it is starting next year.
One of the things that stood out to me when that announcement was made was a statistic I heard the Minister for Women speak about, which was that if we had the same level of workplace participation between women and men, that would increase our gross domestic product by 8 per cent, so $350 billion in terms of economic uplift by increasing access for women to the workforce. I am enormously proud of that.
In Footscray, brick by brick, we are transforming the schools in my community. Just recently I was delighted to attend Footscray North Primary School, which is the primary school my dad went to, in Rosamond Road in Footscray, and we opened a $16 million upgrade of that school. That is just going to absolutely transform learning for those children and for those families to have the absolute best facilities there in Footscray. Just last night I was at another terrific school in my electorate, Footscray West Primary School, where I was able to speak with the school counsellor about some of our education reforms and what they will mean for the students at Footscray West Primary School—a beautiful school in my electorate of Footscray. Footscray City Primary School will be getting an upgrade, and Footscray Primary School’s upgrade is underway now.
At all ages and stages of life you will be able to participate in the Footscray learning precinct. From early childhood at Billy Button Children’s Centre you can just go next door to Footscray City Primary School, then you can go across the road to high school at Footscray High School and then you can cross back over the road and go to Victoria University to complete your further education or to attend free TAFE, which of course the Victorian government is rolling out across Victoria with much success, again particularly for women who are wanting to retrain and enter the workforce. This is another important reform in the Education State, and I am very pleased to support this bill and wish it a speedy passage.
Mr ROWSWELL (Sandringham) (15:19): I also rise to address the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022, and in so doing I acknowledge the contribution of the member for Footscray, who has just made a contribution on the bill, and also my colleague the member for Croydon, who went through in some detail the bill and the provisions within it.
I want to address this bill in a couple of parts—firstly, in relation to the amendments that are sought to be made in the adult education space. I think the Minister for Education in his second-reading speech summarised it best in the penultimate paragraph, where he said:
In summary, the amendments in this Bill are mainly technical in nature and seek to make important improvements to a number of components of the Government education and training system established under the Education Act.
There is nothing like going through four pages of text—five in fact—before getting to the punchline. And I think largely that is true—the purpose of this bill is to make those amendments to tidy things up and appropriately do so. The second part of this bill is of course in the child safety and wellbeing space, and I do not think there is anything more important than that. The member for Croydon and Shadow Minister for Education has indicated that in fact the opposition on this occasion will not be opposing this bill.
I would like to start at the beginning, funnily enough, with the purpose of education. My own experience in this space is not only as a student. I studied teaching at Deakin University, secondary teaching. I started a double degree there. I worked in a secondary school, my alma mater, St Bede’s College, as the youth minister there for a 12-month period and enjoyed that work while I was also studying to be a teacher. Then I had the great privilege of working in Catholic education as well, at Catholic Education Melbourne, during some fairly feisty debates with the then federal government over federal government Gonski funding. The federal member for Maribyrnong, a new minister in the new federal government, was the then education minister, and I remember some discussions about education funding that were had with him at that time. I am now at the stage of life where my four-year-old daughter is attending school next year, so my perspective on the policy area of education has become very personal and is becoming increasingly so as I age and the years go on. I do want to say that in my view the purpose of education is pretty simple. In my view the purpose of education is to prepare young people for life after they leave school. It is very easy to get caught up in the day to day of school life and get caught up in the day-to-day outcomes of school life. But I think what we should be all aiming to do is to prepare our young people to tackle the challenges of life beyond the institutions of schools. That is the best gift that we can give them, and as legislators it is incumbent upon us to do everything we can to provide them with that framework that prepares them to contribute to life beyond school.
Like the member for Caulfield, I would like to acknowledge or call out a number of local institutions within the Sandringham district which do have an interest and a concern in the adult education space. The BGKLLEN of course, which the member for Caulfield referred to—that is, the Bayside Glen Eira Kingston Local Learning and Employment Network—recently had a careers expo at the Beaumaris Secondary College, which they invited me to open. Sadly, it was a parliamentary sitting day and I was not able to attend that, but I understand that they do some outstanding work in connecting young people with potential future career opportunities—once again, preparing young people for a life outside of the institutions of school. And what marvellous work they do. I was thrilled that the member for Caulfield referred to just one of their programs that they are undertaking, a program called the $20 Boss BGKLLEN program, making enterprise and entrepreneurial education special, where some of those students start with 20 bucks and they do whatever they can to try and, well, make that more than 20 bucks through enterprise and entrepreneurship. What a wonderful thing to encourage young people to do.
I acknowledge the community houses in my constituency, and I acknowledge the minister responsible for those community houses, the Minister for Child Protection and Family Services, who is at the table now. I thank him for his support of those community houses in a recent decision, made just a day or so before the handing down of the Victorian budget in fact, to continue the funding for some of the programs at those community houses, and I have spoken to the minister directly about that. Those community houses in Hampton, in Highett and at the Sandybeach Centre as well provide educational programs for some members of our community who would otherwise not feel that connectedness to a community. They provide that environment which is right for them so that those people, if they are people who feel a disconnection from their community—and they might be older people—do feel connected to their community. They provide that space, they provide that safety and they provide those programs for adult learning. I am just so grateful for the work that they do for our community, especially after the last couple of years that we have been through.
At the Sandybeach Centre, I acknowledge the recent passing of one of its founders, Bruce Morey. Bruce Morey was one of the founders of the Sandybeach Centre and died only in the last month or so. He started an institution within the Sandringham district, within the Sandringham community, which arguably on one scale is absolutely unrivalled. Bruce Morey has passed from this life, but his legacy remains at the Sandybeach Centre. I am sorry that I was not able to make his memorial service on that Saturday just a couple of months ago, but I think that the greatest tribute I can pay Bruce is by continuing to support the Sandybeach Centre, as I do and have great pleasure in doing.
Of course there is the U3A in Bayside as well, another wonderful institution where there are gifted people from our community who contribute and give back to our community without expecting anything in return. These people have been professionals in their life, in engineering, in languages, in arts, in culture, in history, in sports and exercise science and other areas, and take up these classes at U3A and through their volunteer work give other older people an opportunity within our community to learn and to continue learning. This is my point: we are all on a journey of lifelong learning, no matter who we are, no matter what stage of life we are at, and that must be acknowledged. I am just so grateful to those institutions within my own electoral district whose very purpose is to enable people within my community to continue their path of lifelong learning, because it is not just about what they learn but it is about the community connections that they make, and it is about bringing people together in our community so that our community can thrive even more.
It would be remiss of me not to make some brief final remarks about some of the broader educational needs within my own electorate. Beaumaris Primary School and Beaumaris North Primary School are in desperate need of new school halls. I have made that request of the government. I have made that request of the Treasurer and of the education minister. I will continue to fight for new school halls at both Beaumaris Primary and Beaumaris North Primary. Mentone Girls Secondary College, the only all-girls state secondary college in the southern region of Melbourne, has not had a brass razoo of fair dinkum major infrastructure dough in about three decades, and they desperately need their master plan finalised and for the rebuilding of their school to commence. Of course Sandringham College, a wonderful educational institution over two campuses within the electoral district of Sandringham, have received through my advocacy and the advocacy of others the first $10 million for stage 1 of their redevelopment. Ten million bucks does not build a new school; they need their second $10 million committed. I will continue to fight to deliver that outcome.
Mr HAMER (Box Hill) (15:29): I too rise to make a contribution on the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022, which is seeking to modernise and improve aspects of the Victorian education system, from secondary school system reform right through to adult and multicultural education services. It does seek to amend a number of pieces of legislation. The main focus of my contribution will be on the reforms to the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, which has some important legislative amendments, and I do thank the Minister for Education and his office for bringing this important bill to the house. As other speakers have said, it is always a good time to speak about education. It is so important to giving members of our community a step up and helping them on their journey for life.
I do want to focus initially on the changes to the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 that will amend part 3.3 of that act to modernise the current functions and governance arrangements of adult, community and further education, or ACFE as they are commonly known, in addition to changing the provisions for AMES Australia. The bill is implementing recommendations from the review of AMES Australia to facilitate this organisation to better fulfil its functions relating to settlement services, employment services and vocational education and training for multicultural communities.
I do want to reflect a little bit on the value that AMES brings, particularly to my local community. It does have a large presence in Box Hill. Before I do so I just want to reflect on my own family’s experience. I touched on this a little bit last week, but when my father’s family arrived in Australia in the late 1940s it was before a lot of these settlement services and languages services were available. So while my dad and his sister were able to go to school—and they had a crash course in learning some basic words in English before they were promptly put into grade 3 in late 1947—his parents did not have that opportunity. There was not the opportunity to have the English language services and the settlement services that obviously the migrant populations of more recent times have been able to enjoy. That always was a struggle for them. They did run a small business when they were in Australia, and they picked up a few words here and there just from dealing with customers. But they were reliant very heavily on their children because their children had had the education in English, and even to their dying days their level of comprehension in writing and reading English was a great challenge to them.
Obviously in Box Hill we have a very large multicultural community, and it has come in waves over a period. Particularly going back to the 1960s there was a significant influx of the Greek community coming into Box Hill. Later there was quite a number of Vietnamese and much more recently there has been the Chinese community. It is interesting; I was having a look at the census data which is now to 2016, so it is a little bit dated, but within the Box Hill electorate there are approximately 70 000 residents in total and close to 40 per cent of them were born overseas. Almost 50 per cent of that cohort that were born overseas actually arrived in the period 2006 to 2016, the largest numbers being from China, from Malaysia, from Hong Kong and from India—so, the vast bulk of those requiring language services. I do see that a lot in my constituency work. I reflect back on, like I said, my family’s story, that it is often very difficult for the parents. The parents have not necessarily had that strong English language education from their home community, and it is often the children who are translating for the parents whenever we are having that conversation. So the services that are being provided by AMES Australia across the board, but particularly in my local area, are of vital importance.
I do want to also just draw attention to a particular initiative that AMES Box Hill ran a few years ago. I think this may have been with the South Sudanese community at the time. Part of the resettlement program was they did resettle some of the South Sudanese community in Box Hill South. AMES Box Hill set up a learn-to-swim program—it was particularly geared towards adults, but children could participate as well because a lot of people in these migrant communities had never had the opportunity to go in a swimming pool or attend the beach and whatever. There had been a spate of drownings, particularly in a number of migrant communities, and lifesaving required, so a partnership between AMES Box Hill and Life Saving Victoria ran a learn-to-swim program at the local swimming pool. It is not just about language, it is also about life skills which are a critical part that we take for granted having grown up in Australia.
The bill amends a number of other elements of the act. It also modernises the framework for Victorian student numbers. Every Victorian student has a right to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to plan and shape their lives on the journey from secondary school through whichever education pathway they choose to take. The Victorian student number was introduced 14 years ago as a unique identification tool for all Victorian students under the age of 25 who are enrolled in a training or education program. This number tracks and collects information, including name, gender, date of birth and details of enrolment. In those last 14 years there has been a proliferation of new technologies and operations which the old system cannot effectively capture, so the bill does seek to modernise the current legislative framework for accessing, disclosing and using Victorian student numbers and the data they track so that the mechanism can accommodate new requirements for the students of today and into the future.
These amendments mean there will be more accurate reporting to the community on the state’s education and training system and will provide a clearer picture of the future of the education system. The changes brought about will also ensure that student numbers remain faithful to their intended purpose—namely, monitoring enrolment details, verifying student identity and providing data for strategic insights into the movement of students, including identifying students at risk of disengaging from education or training. These amendments will help to buttress the student number system so that we as a government, as a Parliament, can better meet the education needs of Victorian students and adequately plan for the educational needs of tomorrow’s students without compromising their privacy. Information collected at enrolment or following cancellation of enrolment will be stored securely by schools in the register.
The many ways that education services are delivered and engaged with mean that the system does need to be modernised. An example which illustrates why the system needs to be modernised is that the IT department staff, who were never more vital to our kids’ education than during the periods of remote learning, may be engaged by the department on a contract basis and be unable to access the student information as they are not considered authorised users. While IT staff needed access during remote learning, many Victorians found themselves in a position where they needed to adopt software in order to access education or employment opportunities, and not all third-party operators kept their promises to protect consumer privacy.
There are a number of other amendments which are proposed in the bill, all of which will be going to improving the way that education services are delivered in this state. Anything that can go to contributing to making education easier to access and lifting up education is to be commended. I commend the bill to the house.
Ms CONNOLLY (Tarneit) (15:39): I too rise to speak on the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022. Just reading through my notes here today, I have got six pages of notes, and I have no doubt I will struggle to get past the first page because I absolutely love standing here in this place after almost four years to talk about education. I feel that over the past four to eight years we have gone through an absolute—what would you say?—reformation in this state when it comes to education. I think that can be best described as being the education revolution that is happening right now in my electorate of Tarneit. Two of the fastest growing suburbs in this state, Tarneit and Truganina, have benefited immensely from our investment in education. Looking at my notes, I can see that since coming to government in 2015 we have invested more than $25 billion in education. Just a couple of sitting weeks ago, or I think it was in the previous sitting week, I stood here in this place talking about our amazing investment in schools that came out of the budget a couple of months ago and the major wins for communities like Tarneit and Truganina when it came to schools. That $25 billion can be seen in statistics like this. Since being elected in 2018 I have opened three schools. I always go through and I count these schools. I feel like it should be more because what I know is that in the pipeline of opening schools—and I have had to triple-check this number a number of times—11 schools are sitting in the pipeline, 11 schools that we will have built, starting to open their doors as of next year. There is no suburb that is benefiting more than our mighty Truganina.
In Truganina last year we announced that we were going to purchase land in Elements estate. It was land that otherwise the developer was going to sell off and build more houses on because we could not find an independent school to purchase the land. It was earmarked for an independent school there in the heart of my Truganina community. Elements estate is full of families. The demographic in Wyndham, in my patch, is 32-year-olds with two young kids. To give you an idea of the type of extreme growth that this part of Victoria is experiencing, last sitting week I think I came here and talked about 120 babies being born in Wyndham each and every single week. The member for Cranbourne is over there—I do not know if you have quite hit 120, but we worked out that is four classrooms of prep that need to come online each and every single year, which is why you can see our recent kinder announcement, including building 50 extra kinders across this state, is so very important. Four prep classes are born each and every single week. I say to the member for Cranbourne and this house: I can raise you when it comes to babies being born in Wyndham now. Having been out with Wyndham City Council last week, I was reminded that it is no longer 120 babies being born each and every single week; it is 130 and on the rise. I am not sure if that is a hangover from COVID. I am really not quite sure, but I am reminded that that is not going to slow down. That is what we are talking about when it comes to population growth, how extraordinary it is and how fast it is happening in the outer western suburbs of Victoria.
$25 billion of investment since 2015 means two really important things in my patch. It means new schools are being built and coming on line sooner rather than later, but it also means that for the existing schools in my electorate—you know, that were built in the 1950s and 60s—that are looking a little bit older and needing a little bit of a facelift and an upgrade of facilities, we are also going ahead and doing that, which is really important in communities like Hoppers Crossing. Two major schools in Hoppers Crossing have received a lot of money from our government. We have Hoppers Crossing Secondary getting an upgrade that is worth over $10 million, which was announced a couple of years ago, and works will soon be underway. Then we have the mighty Grange P–12 College. The Grange P–12 College is your ultimate Friday Night Lights-type of Hollywood story. It is a working-class community. It is a vulnerable community. Lots of mums and dads there are doing it very tough. We deal with issues with single parents, domestic violence and drugs—you name it, it is happening there in Hoppers. The Grange P–12 has been able to take a school that was struggling with the behaviour of youth in the local community and turn that around through wonderful things like sport, engaging kids in sport and through sport teaching them to respect themselves, respect others, respect the community and go on and have a career pathway towards secure work that they would not otherwise have had.
Now, The Grange college for too long had had facilities that were quite run down. I remember when I was campaigning—thinking back now, it might have been the end of 2017 and certainly all throughout 2018—going to The Grange numerous times, having a look at those facilities, having a look at the classrooms that kids had to be in, checking out their bathrooms and making sure that toilet facilities were up to par. Well, we came and announced in 2018 that we would invest $9.5 million at The Grange P–12 College to upgrade the senior campus. Certainly the Premier was able to come out with me—I am thinking back now—just before the last lockdown last year after he returned to work after his injury. He came out to The Grange, and he had a look at these first-class facilities for delivering a world-class education to local kids—to kids in Hoppers Crossing, to Victorian kids. And I have to say it was a really proud moment, being there in the classrooms but also heading on over and watching students kick around a rugby football—this is a big rugby union school—on a football oval that was covered in beautiful, beautiful green grass.
When I was there in 2018 they had this huge oval. They were state champions for rugby union and had beaten all the private schools—I went and watched a couple of games where they kicked the butts of schools like Xavier at rugby competitions—but these kids did not have a rugby pitch to play on. They actually did not have goals to kick the football over, and yet they were state champions. Their football pitch was more like moon rock and probably belonged on something like Mars, and that was through years of drought, with no ability to really water and keep the football pitch there covered with lush green grass. So these kids would play on this football pitch—all kinds of injuries. They were big kids taking heavy hits, and I cannot imagine how much it would have hurt in that dirt with that kind of rock. We fixed that, and the Premier came out and was able to look upon that field and see those kids, Victorian kids, playing at their best—state champions—but also having a pathway to work, whether they would go on to more education at uni or they would be looking at doing VCAL and going on to a trade or just going into a job. These were kids that would otherwise have been left behind. That is what $25 billion worth of investment means, whether you are in a new and emerging community or you are in an existing one that really needs us to upgrade its schools.
I promised you I would not go beyond page 1 for this speech. I have talked about education a lot over almost four years and it is something I feel very, very passionate about. Just very quickly, this bill is about us going ahead and building upon our continuing commitment to ensuring that education providers at all year levels are operating under the right oversight framework to deliver safe outcomes for Victorian students. Again, this is about us being committed to Victorian families, mums and dads, wherever they are in the state, and ensuring that every kid has first-class facilities for a world-class education, because what we know is that education can break that systemic cycle of vulnerability and of disadvantage. It is something that Labor stands for at its very heart. It is something that Labor governments do very, very well. And I wholeheartedly commend this bill to the house.
Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (15:49): I also rise to speak on the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022. Like my colleague from Tarneit, who I am privileged to follow, I am also very excited to have any opportunity to speak about education and the educational matters in the Mount Waverley district. Whilst I agree with other members—the member for Sandringham talked about the technical nature of this bill, and that is very true—nonetheless these technical bills just improve our system and are an important part of progressing the framework that allows us to push forward our Education State. The minister should be congratulated for not just this bill but obviously many, many years of great work in our education system.
The amendments in this bill I will address are predominantly technical, as I said, and seek to make important improvements to a number of components of the government’s education and training system established under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006. Importantly, the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022 will make necessary improvements to various components of our system, including the modernisation and continuation of the effective functioning of the Adult, Community and Further Education Board and AMES—Adult Multicultural Education Services. I thank the member for Box Hill for his contribution in regard to AMES. It is a very, very worthy part of our system, and it was great to hear his insights on that. The bill addresses the powers and functions of the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority as a regulator of registered training organisations and integrated sector regulator of schools, school boarding premises and other education providers for child safe standards. It also modernises and simplifies provisions regulating the use, access and disclosure of the Victorian student number.
Over the last number of years that I have had the privilege to be in this place we have made significant improvements to the infrastructure in the area of Mount Waverley, which I am very proud to have had my small part in, but it is not just infrastructure that creates a world-class education system. We can put the bricks and mortar in in the suburbs, but without the teachers, teaching assistants, principals, administration staff, parents, students, curriculum and everything else that goes towards creating a system, without all those parts of the jigsaw coming together, we would not have a system like the one we have in Victoria, which we can all be very proud of.
Whilst I am no expert in the details of the education curriculum and the standards of teachers—I am certainly not a teacher myself, although I know a few—I was very happy, I remember, a couple of years ago when I was first in this role and spoke to a number of principals in my area who were overwhelmingly glowing about the curriculum and the processes of our education department. I think we should thank our department officials and everyone who works in that area, because it is work that is often not championed—all of the things that go on behind the scenes—but our bureaucrats and department officials, day after day, turn up and make the system function, along with our principals, teachers and everyone else.
We are obviously committed to investing in not only that workforce and the department but also the infrastructure, as I have said, and this has been demonstrated through the allocation of $12.8 billion over the last eight budgets. It is an amazing amount of money to go into the education of our next generation. The bill we are talking about today is partly affecting continuing education, adult education. Those of us who are my age, when we were a bit younger thought that we would go to school, we would find our way, whatever that might be. We would enter our vocation and we would be pretty well set but life is rarely like that these days. These days having the ability to retrain is not only something that many people face through whatever chances happen in their careers but also something that even within careers is mandated. Vocational learning within teaching, within any career, is a necessary part of one’s career these days.
So having the ability to retrain, whether that be through registered training organisations, whether that be through TAFE, whether that be through other organisations like the University of the Third Age—however that may be—is crucial to opening up opportunities for not only adults and young Victorians but also people who are just learning other skills. Third-party providers creating small businesses that are in their area of education are a very important part of the sector that sits outside obviously the public education sector but nonetheless fits in and trains our young or old in other skills—it could be sport, it could be dance, it could be art. There are so many different ways of educating ourselves that keep us, one would hope, young in heart and mind. I am often surprised to see the diligence with which our education staff play their roles. As I have said before in this house, I know many teachers, and obviously my wife is a teacher, so I get a fairly good portrayal of the working life of a teacher. Our teachers do so much work outside of their allotted hours that it would almost be impossible to overstate their work ethic, and I thank them for their work.
In Mount Waverley we have had a number of advancements in our schools over the last 3½ years. I think the first commitment that we got, which I was lucky enough to get in the 2019 budget, was a new senior centre for Brentwood Secondary College, which I was lucky enough to be a part of the opening of this year. It is a fantastic building and a world’s best practice learning environment, and it is really a home for the seniors in the school, something they can call their own, which they did not have before. It ticks other boxes in that this new building allowed for the removal of some portables, so from an infrastructure point of view it is fantastic. But what I notice about our students in the senior areas is they seem to be—and obviously I would not reference you, Deputy Speaker—a lot more mature and switched on than I was in year 11 or year 12. Their ability to go about their learning is quite remarkable if I consider myself back in 1985 or whenever it was—1986—and I think that is testament to an education system that has underpinned their learning from the start of their education to where they are now. To have a system that acknowledges and benefits the future learning of all of us, of those young adults or further, is very, very important. So this bill adds to our provision of that, and I commend the bill to the house.
Ms SULEYMAN (St Albans) (15:59): I rise to speak on the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022, and I too echo the sentiments of the previous speakers. There is no doubt that since being elected the Andrews Labor government has made its very core for government to establish Victoria as the Education State, where every Victorian student has an equal right to knowledge and skills to shape their lives. It is an important and integral layer of their lives as they begin their journey.
Since 2014, as I have said previously, we have wasted no time in getting on with the job, with building the Education State and investing more than $25 billion to achieve these reforms in education, whether it was investing in school infrastructure or whether it was the allocation of $12.8 billion over the past eight budgets to deliver more than 1850 school upgrades, including in my electorate of St Albans, where just recently in the budget we have seen the rebuild of and close to $13 million invested in St Albans Heights Primary School and also investment in St Albans Primary School—two local schools that really needed that little bit of investment to bring forward confidence and learning rooms upgrades for their school. But we have also seen the opening of 75 of 100 new schools, which will continue to 2026 and support around 17 000 jobs in construction and associated industry. That is really critical, because not only are we building our schools and education but we are also creating those valuable local jobs in our communities.
Since 2018 the Labor government has invested over $592 million in reforming the senior secondary school system to prepare students for successful careers of the future, including $277 million in the 2022–23 budget. As recently as last Wednesday I actually met with the principal for Victoria University Secondary College, Elaine Hazim. She does a tremendous job at Victoria University Secondary College. It has campuses at Deer Park and also in Cairnlea and St Albans. We were talking about the valuable investment by our government and how these reforms have meant so much to her students and her school community.
With this bill we are continuing that strong record of ensuring that Victoria is the Education State but continues to build on the Education State. There will be important amendments paving the way for our game-changing senior secondary reforms and improving adult and community education, and we have heard how important that is. This bill will introduce a range of amendments to the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, the education act, the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 and the Child Wellbeing and Safety (Child Safe Standards Compliance and Enforcement) Amendment Act 2021. Such is that some of these are technical in nature, but this will strengthen the frameworks for the education system and ensure that it is fit for purpose now and also into the future.
Of course I have spoken about the investments just recently funded for St Albans, with St Albans Primary School and St Albans Heights Primary School, but as many would know, St Albans is home to a very diverse community. Over 70 per cent come from a non-English-speaking background, and I am very proud to represent such a diverse and multicultural community in St Albans. Close to 80 per cent have both parents born overseas according to the census, so we are really an extreme and very proud diverse community. I know how important English is for my community, especially for those who have migrated or arrived newly to Australia or to Victoria. Centres and service providers such as Comm Unity Plus in St Albans, a service provider of English, AMES in St Albans and the Migrant Resource Centre North West Region in St Albans do a tremendous job in teaching the English language and just providing the support services for newly arrived migrants, because we know how challenging it is for those who come here to make their home, whether it is from war-torn countries or whether it is to migrate—as my parents did in the 1970s—for a better life in Australia as 18-year-olds with no English.
The importance of kinder was not in the thoughts of parents back in the 1970s, in particular for multicultural communities where English was not their primary language, nor understanding and navigating the system when it came to kindergarten, so I certainly did not attend kindergarten. I recall attending prep the first day, which was such a daunting experience for me. I probably had anxiety, and the fact was I did not know what the teacher was saying to me because I did not speak English with my parents. Attending prep with no English was a little bit difficult, but I did learn as I progressed. It was a very tough prep and grade 1 for me, but I ended up at a point where I was translating for my mum in my primary school years. Then I had the fun of translating for my mum in my secondary years, and that was always fun at high school, translating those reports to your parents. It was to the amusement of my teachers at Kealba High School what I was actually saying—
Ms SULEYMAN: Thank you, member for Yan Yean. It was always positive reports, as I would say to my mum. I could not get away with it with my dad, but with Mum I could. These are some of the stories that I am sure many migrant families have experienced and continue to experience, but I am so happy and pleased that there are the support services in our communities that are ready to assist, and of course the role that our multicultural community organisations play as well. They are also a level of support to families to assist in the journey to a different life, may I say.
When it comes to investing in education and especially the recent announcement of Best Start, Best Life, it brought a tear to my eye because I knew the difference that it would make to every family who had a child to know that they would be able to access free kinder without the hassles of navigating the system. This is about building a strong foundation for these kids to continue on and really prosper in their job opportunities and in their lives. I want to commend our government and in particular the numerous ministers that were involved in the new free kinder program announced last week. In a growing community where the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital delivered 6659 babies last year and which continues to grow this year, it just tells you about the absolute demand for these services. The learning years, as we have heard, from zero to five are absolutely where the skills are developed. Most importantly, it is the best start for a child to be able to get every learning experience from those early years.
This is a bill that I support. I want to thank all the teachers in my electorate. In particular I would like to thank, for 40 years of service, Cinzia Cunningham from St Albans Secondary College and Linda Maxwell from Keilor Downs College; for 45 years of service, Lorraine Bell from Monmia Primary School, Alfrieda Caban from Victoria University Secondary College and Kerrie Dowsley at St Albans Secondary College; and for 50 years, Janice Brown from Jackson School.
Mr TAK (Clarinda) (16:09): I am delighted to join the previous speakers from all sides to speak on the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022. I would like to concur with the member for St Albans with her experience interpreting for her mum and dad and certainly include myself. I still remember walking with my mother to attend her evening class at AMES, her English class, very well. But I would like to share a story—English is one part—but in a good way. You know how newly arrived migrants enter this country and learn a bit of English and at the same time never get the system? My former colleague at the City of Greater Dandenong Cr Loi Truong keeps reminding me how he was walking with his family to a bus stop, where he could read a little bit of English. It said, ‘No standing’, so what the whole family did was keep walking around while waiting for their bus to come—because it said ‘No standing’. They were standing but it said ‘No standing’, so to avoid that they kept walking. That is a good one.
This is another important bill, one that will implement a number of technical amendments to make important improvements to various components of the government’s education and training system. Education takes many forms in our Education State, and our adult and community education providers are vital resources for so many of my constituents. This bill has three major objectives, the first one being the modernisation, continuation and effective functioning of the Adult, Community and Further Education Board and AMES Australia.
Just for some context, the Adult, Community and Further Education Board’s role is to plan and to promote adult learning, allocate resources, develop policy and advise the Minister for Training and Skills on matters that relate to adult education in Victoria. Through the board the Victorian government provides funding to registered Learn Local providers to deliver education and training programs to a broad range of Victorians who are above compulsory school age and who are seeking to gain the educational capacity and core skills they need for study, work and of course life. The board provides funding for around 250 Learn Local providers as well as AMES Australia and the Centre for Adult Education to deliver preaccredited training and other programs that support learners to return to study and improve their core skills, such as literacy, numeracy, English language, employability and digital skills. This helps many in the community to gain qualifications, broaden their employment options and learn new skills.
Learn Local providers are all non-profit community organisations, and we are so lucky in Clarinda to have several of these wonderful providers. We have the Cheltenham Community Centre on Chesterville Road. Arna O’Connell is the centre manager there; I have met her, and she is a wonderful advocate for community education. I was lucky enough to join the centre’s AGM last year to say thank you to their board of governance and their volunteers. It is a wonderful community organisation.
In recent times the centre has been providing vital support to many Ukrainian students attending English classes at the centre. It is a major focus of the centre—helping migrants with limited English levels to improve their English language skills to settle into Australia. We heard from the member for St Albans, who shared her story, and now from me in the electorate of Clarinda about how in the 1980s we saw many Indo-Chinese migrants resettling here in the south-east. Again, regarding the Ukrainians, they have 180 students a week from the local community come to learn English, to improve their English conversation skills and to meet other local migrants, both newly arrived and settled residents. With the current crisis in Ukraine resulting in millions of displaced Ukrainians, many recently arrived Ukrainians have come to Cheltenham Community Centre to join the English classes and seek support from the community centre. I would like to commend the centre for this outstanding work.
We are a very diverse community in Clarinda, with more than half of us born overseas or with a parent born overseas. So the English classes provided are a very important resource for many. Across our providers there are opportunities to improve spoken and written English. These classes are designed to help everyone, including in their English. These classes are also designed for newly arrived migrants and refugees settling into Australia. They also offer adults English classes and the skills that they need to live and work in the community, to keep their job and to gain entry into further study and also complete a qualification. I come back to my good friend and former colleague at the City of Greater Dandenong. Of course he did go on and complete his 510 hours and complete a bachelor of arts at university. Things like this are things that we ought to celebrate to remind ourselves what education can bring to one family who arrived here for a better life and a better future. These services are important resources to help people communicate with others in their community and also to build language and life skills.
In fact there are thousands of short courses available each year, and you can check out the Learning Local course guides and browse through learning topics on the website. As mentioned, we have several amazing providers in Clarinda. There is the Springvale Learning and Activities Centre on Osborne Avenue, and I was fortunate to join the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, who is at the table here, in recent times to visit the centre, with their wonderful services during COVID—a difficult time. They provide English for citizenship, English for safe work and functional English courses, and there are other subjects, including budgeting and also writing a resume and all of that.
I understand that in this bill there are other amendments, important amendments and technical amendments which are very important, but I just would like to lastly make another comment on the Victorian student number, the VSN. The VSN was introduced over a decade ago, and the governance provisions around VSNs need to be updated. The bill will provide greater flexibility for persons and entities who may be authorised to access, use and disclose VSNs and related information in the Victorian student register and expand the purposes for which VSNs and related information can be accessed, used and disclosed. These are important amendments that will facilitate more accurate reporting to the community on the state’s education and training system.
There are a whole host of important changes, and I thank the Minister for Education and the Minister for Training and Skills for bringing this bill forward and for all the work that they do to deliver our first-class, world-class education system here in Victoria. I am happy to support these amendments here today that will help to deliver our adult and community education programs, which as I mentioned, are very important resources for many of my constituents and many Victorians, and I commend the bill to the house.
Mr BRAYNE (Nepean) (16:18:588:): I also rise today to speak on the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022, and of course it is great to follow my good friend the member for Clarinda and his very considered contribution. The member for Clarinda does not tell enough stories in this place, so when he does tell them they are usually great. I urge the member: please, please tell some stories when you are up on your feet.
The Victorian government is committed to establishing Victoria as the Education State, where every student has an equal right to the knowledge and skills they need to shape their lives. Our numberplates say ‘The Education State’ for a reason. Since 2015 this government has invested more than $25 billion to achieve these Education State reforms. Of this incredibly substantial amount, $12.8 billion has been invested into school infrastructure right across the state, including 1850 school upgrades, opening 75 of the 100 new schools by 2026 and supporting 17 400 jobs in construction and associated industries. This has been one of the great pursuits of this government.
It is one that I have seen reflected in my community on the southern peninsula time after time. Since I was elected in 2018 my community has seen more than $40 million in investments and upgrades to our local schools. $13.77 million, and I have mentioned it almost every speech, was invested to rebuild Rosebud Primary School. This will provide extra places for local students. $8.7 million was invested to upgrade Dromana Primary School and $10 million to upgrade Rosebud Secondary College, and works are beginning very soon on that one. That is without mentioning the single largest capital investment in Red Hill Consolidated School in 50 years. I was fortunate enough to visit Red Hill a few weeks ago to tour the brand new buildings, and I was able to see firsthand the world-class facilities that Red Hill Consolidated School students are learning in right now. Whether it is in Red Hill, Dromana, Capel Sound, Rosebud, Rye or Sorrento, our kids deserve the best chance to develop the knowledge and skills they need to shape their lives. It starts with investing in world-class facilities and modernised buildings. These are real investments. These are really making a difference in the lives of local students who live on the southern Mornington Peninsula. That is why I was so excited to see that Peninsula Specialist College would be receiving $9.4 million from the 2022–23 budget to upgrade and modernise that school, including the construction of a new classroom building.
As I said, every student regardless of their background should be given access to the best education with the best facilities. I also take this opportunity to thank all teachers, principals, teacher aides and administrative staff for their huge efforts to support our students’ learning throughout the pandemic, the really difficult period we have had over the last couple of years. I know that the investments in school infrastructure I have seen in my community of Nepean will also help local kids on the southern peninsula and shape their lives for many years to come. There are so many communities right across the state that can say the same. I am sure you can as well, member for Melton. That is the power of investing in our kids’ future. That is why this government is absolutely committed to building the Education State here in Victoria.
This commitment goes beyond investments just in school infrastructure, though; it is about ensuring that the education system itself is the best it can be so that students are prepared for successful careers in the future. That is why since 2018 the Andrews Labor government has invested a huge amount of money in reforming the senior secondary school system. The 2020–21 budget invested $38 million to commence reforms to vocational and applied learning in senior secondary schooling in response to John Firth’s review into vocational and applied learning pathways in senior secondary schooling. This was followed by substantial investment in the 2022–23 budget to continue to support the implementation of the recommendations of the Firth review. This review recommends that the government address issues through a place-based approach to planning, coupled with the introduction of a VET core offering and scaffolded with additional supports to address access barriers. This government is committed to listening to the experts and delivering the Education State. That is why the recommendations of this review have been implemented.
As a result, high-quality vocational and applied learning will be available to every senior secondary student no matter where they go to school. It starts with the introduction of the new VCE vocational major and the Victorian Pathways Certificate, with the first student cohort commencing these certificates in 2023. This investment will see students better prepared for in-demand careers in trades and services and represents the biggest reform to our state’s education system since the introduction of VCE.
I could name so many other investments that are putting our students first in creating the Education State here in Victoria, whether it is the $131 million to lift student literacy and numeracy support for students who need it most; $37 million to continue the student excellence program, which supports higher ability students to reach their potential through enrichment opportunities; $779 million to reduce face-to-face teaching hours by 1½ hours progressively over 2023 and 2024 to make sure our teachers are looked after too; or the school breakfast program. These are just some of the many investments that this government is making in our education system so that our students and their teachers are prepared for the future. Now more than ever it is essential that we are setting students up for success, and ensuring that they have access to world-class buildings and a world-class education system is the best way to do this. So in any of the number of investments that have been made in our education system, establishing Victoria as the Education State will remain a top priority for this government, and the bill we are debating today is no exception.
The Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022 will make important improvements to various components of the education and training system, including in relation to the modernisation, continuation and effective functioning of the Adult, Community and Further Education Board and AMES Australia; the powers and functions of the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) as a regulator of registered training organisations and as the integrated sector regulator of schools, school boarding premises and other education providers for the child safe standards; and modernising and simplifying the provisions regulating the use of, access to and disclosure of the Victorian student number.
In particular this bill will amend the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 and the Child Wellbeing and Safety Amendment (Child Safe Standards Compliance and Enforcement) Amendment Act 2021 to modernise and clarify the powers, functions and governance arrangements of the Adult, Community and Further Education Board, remove adult education institutions as a provider of ACFE and confine the provisions relating to adult education institutions to AMES Australia. It will also modernise the framework for access to, use of and disclosure of the Victorian student number and related information on the Victorian student register. It will provide the VRQA with discretion on whether to conduct a compliance audit of a registered training organisation. It will clarify that post-secondary education institutions and post-secondary education providers may provide education to people who are of compulsory school age, including to ensure those entities are subject to the child safe standards. It will ensure that a person, body or school registered in respect of a foundation secondary course or foundation secondary qualification is subject to the reportable conduct scheme and the CSS. It will allow the VRQA to continue to use and disclose information about complaints in accordance with existing provisions in the ETR act and the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014. It will lower the threshold for the VRQA to issue a notice to produce. It will allow the VRQA to issue notices to comply to schools, school boarding premises and RTOs. Finally, it will allow the Minister for Education to appoint an acting member to the board of the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership. The combination of these amendments will modernise and improve these components of the education and training system.
Regardless of whether it is amendments like the ones outlined in this bill or the billions of dollars of school infrastructure investments, this government is committed to establishing the Education State here in Victoria, and seeing the Education State come together in the southern peninsula and across our state has been one of the most rewarding parts of my time in this role. An equitable education system is the bedrock of any fair society. I am proud of the continuous work that this government has done to improve all aspects of our education system, so whether it is seeing construction finish on Rosebud Primary School or construction begin on the new Peninsula Specialist College upgrade, I cannot wait to continue to see these investments in education come to life on the southern Mornington Peninsula and across the state. I commend this bill to the house.
Mr KENNEDY (Hawthorn) (16:28): It gives me immense pleasure to speak on the Education Legislation Amendment (Adult and Community Education and Other Matters) Bill 2022. This is a bill that effectively continues the reform and modernisation of our education system. As clichéd as it sounds, as the most senior member of this chamber I feel as though I have the weight of my experience to lean on when I say that education is truly a lifelong journey.
I, like I am sure many members here, have a University of the Third Age located within my electorate, and I cannot stress enough the value of this institution and institutions of its ilk. When I look at the Hawthorn U3A and the one at Deepdene as well, I am just amazed how well patronised they are. When you ask for their prospectus, there are such an enormous range of different subjects on offer: modern languages of quite a number of countries, politics and arts of all kinds. The fact is that they are, certainly in my electorate anyway, extremely well patronised. I am just delighted that, whatever happened before I arrived there, these universities of the third age got underway. I am informed that the politics and current affairs group, at which I am scheduled to debate my honourable opponent in the coming election campaign, has a sizeable waiting list. Whilst it could certainly do with a few more members of the Labor Party in it, I for one am glad to see this kind of civic engagement in my community. Representative democracy works when people care and when people show up, and these seniors certainly do. I use this as an example of the kind of good that our adult education system can do and why the improvements contained within this bill are so important.
We are committed to not just adult education but the education of all Victorians. Since 2015 we have invested more than $25 billion to achieve our Education State reforms. We have built schools with $12.8 billion in the last eight budgets for a massive 1850 school upgrades, opening 75 out of 100 new schools by 2026 and creating around 17 400 more jobs in construction and associated industries. These are not just empty statistics, these are lives changed and opportunities given to all Victorians. Education is a human right, and this is a government that will fight tooth and nail for every student in Victoria, no matter their age and stage.
I was a principal for decades and spent over 40 years in education, and I can tell you that the reforms I have witnessed during my time in this chamber are absolutely revolutionary. I am proud to say that anywhere in Victoria you can get a first-class education, whether at a public or a non-government school. These reforms are not just helping students Victoria-wide but helping students in my leafy electorate of Hawthorn. After decades of neglect by my conservative predecessors, I have spent the past four years trying to take in every piece of funding I can for all our schools. Whilst I hesitate to applaud myself—out of modesty of course—and my colleagues on this side of house too much, the results speak for themselves. Whilst I could speak on the subject for an eternity, I would like to go over the highlights right now: $5.731 million for Hawthorn West Primary School, $11.5 million for the Fritsch Holzer developments at Swinburne Senior Secondary College and $10.13 million for Auburn High School in the 2020–21 budget, on top of the $5.5 million delivered in the 2019–20 budget. I could go on, but all I can say is that this is a government that lives and breathes education. That is why this bill is fundamentally about making improvements to the system we have worked so hard to rebuild after the neglect of those on the opposite benches.
I will just turn to aspects of the bill itself. This legislation represents our government once again not just going for the big picture reforms but getting into the nuts and bolts of the policy itself. Measures like changing the Victorian student number identifying system might not be flashy or glamorous but make a tangible difference to our students’ lives. It will now be easier to track and support students as they embark upon their promising careers.
I can tell you right now that it is these incremental changes, combined with the big-picture measures, which saw us rank first or second in 15 of the 20 NAPLAN assessments in 2021. Education is the great equaliser in our society, and whilst my electorate of Hawthorn is home to some of our state’s most prestigious schools, it is also home to a large student population. Over one-quarter of students in Hawthorn live below the poverty line, believe it or not, yet the callous federal government kept dropping welfare and attacking our universities, lifting their fees and so on. Nevertheless we in our state Labor government are committed to an education system that is fair, productive and compassionate. That has been my mantra for the whole time I have been here—striving for a situation that is fair, productive and compassionate and recognising that you cannot have any one of those without the others. We will keep working to ensure that we are able to achieve the best outcomes for all students.
We all know how hard our underappreciated teachers work, and legislation like this is intended to ease their burden. It is an important part of the broader program aiming to help our teachers and complements policies like the establishment of the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership, which was funded by the Labor government to the tune of $148 million over four years. The teaching excellence program is a one-year program with 238 teachers in its first year and with 500 teachers per year once the academy is fully up and running. We need teachers—it is as simple as that. They are the bedrock of our society, not just instilling knowledge but instilling values. They are a shoulder for students to lean on in tough times and are vital for their communities. I am sure all of us in this chamber can think of at least one teacher in their lives who had enormous impact on them. Unfortunately—or fortunately, you might say—I taught the esteemed Tony Abbott at Riverview, but I clearly did not teach him well enough.
I want to just repeat the importance of what is happening here, not just focusing on the age group of the moment. We are not just focusing on teenagers or children, we are focusing on adults of all ages and saying that education is really a lifelong process. In one way, when you stop learning, you stop living. That is very easily said—and it can be a bit glib saying it, I know—but it is on us to provide resources to make sure that adults of all stages of their lives have an opportunity to continue their learning. These sorts of reforms are able to produce that sort of outcome. I am proud to have spoken on another piece of innovative education legislation by this government, and I commend this bill to the house.
Ms GREEN (Yan Yean) (16:39): I am delighted to follow the esteemed member for Hawthorn. It is great to join the debate on another piece of groundbreaking education legislation within the Education State. When the member for Nepean was on his feet—and I listened intently to his contribution—as he got up he commended the member for Clarinda and said that the member for Clarinda needs to tell more stories when he speaks in the chamber, because he has really got some interesting things to say. There is never a concern with having to encourage the member for Hawthorn to tell a story or two in this chamber. I love working with the member for Hawthorn, and it has been a real joy to serve these past almost four years with him and reconnect our friendship and working relationship that we have had from the beginning, since I was elected to this place in 2002.
The member for Hawthorn was the founding principal of Loyola College in Watsonia, and I was reminded of the contribution of the member for Hawthorn when I was there only about three weeks ago for the 60th wedding anniversary celebration of Mary and Val Simpson, who also recommitted their wedding vows in the hospitality centre at Loyola College. That centre was opened under the leadership of the member for Hawthorn, and I was at that opening. I think it was in around 2006, but it is still a very good centre. Sadly, since that day Mary Simpson has had a stroke, and I really wish her all the best. We want to see her back on the campaign trail, because she is a great community person in Mernda. Val Simpson OAM, her husband, is a past president of the school council at Loyola, and son Sean is now a teacher at the school, is a past assistant principal, is also a former school captain, I believe—he might have even been the inaugural one—and is past president of the alumni of Loyola College.
It is a really great thing in our Education State that we have magnificent, quality institutions in the Catholic system, in the independent system but also, most importantly, in the state system. I was very privileged when—it would be almost eight years ago—the then Leader of the Opposition, now Premier, and the now Deputy Premier and Minister for Education announced in Hilltop Park in Mernda that, if we were elected as the Andrews Labor government, Victoria would become the Education State. I can see across those almost eight years that this vision has been delivered in spades. We were up on this big hill, not far from now Bunjil Place, which is an Aboriginal healing place, looking across to those beautiful mountains and seeing all those communities there. ‘Mernda’ means ‘young girl’ in the traditional language spoken by the Wurundjeri and ‘Yan Yean’, the electorate that I represent, means ‘young boy’. I really think that the educational needs of the Merndas and the Yan Yeans have been really well taken care of under the leadership of this government, but particularly in the Mernda and Doreen postcodes.
Young Jeremy was before the press. I think he was four at the time with beautiful golden blond locks, a local boy with his mum there. He had not started primary school then, but I know he attended Arthurs Creek Primary School and I suspect he might have started year 7 this year, so I must catch up with where he is. He was absolutely rapt to launch that first Education State numberplate, and he actually got to take it home as a prized possession. But since then we have delivered on saying that we would build the Mernda Central P–12 College, and they are having their first year of year 12—so they are going from nothing, out of the ground and nothing being delivered. It was really needed for that community. No secondary schools were built in the north and school capital was cut by over 50 per cent, and so we have caught up with that. It is a fantastic school and it has got great outcomes.
Hazel Glen College, the largest single campus school in the country, goes from birth to year 12. We completed that school with the senior college. It will be an exemplar of what we will be able to do because it already begins at birth. Part of the governance of that school is early learning, so I think that it will be one of the leading centres when we move to having that pre-prep year introduced across the state.
I was pleased to visit Doreen Primary recently with the Labor candidate for Yan Yean, Lauren Kathage, and announce on the day of the budget actually—it is one of the oldest schools in my electorate; it has been around for, I think, 165 years, it might be 166—that it is getting over $5 million in this budget to rebuild this great little rural school. What it will mean is that in all six schools in the Mernda and Doreen postcode, which has grown from 1200 people when I was elected 20 years ago to now 50 000 people, not one permanent building will be more than 15 years old. That is just an example of the Education State at work.
We have had particularly the Whittlesea Tech School initiative, the Banyule Nillumbik Tech School initiative, doctors in schools at Whittlesea Secondary College and at Wallan Secondary College and additional mental health and welfare professionals rolled out throughout secondary schools across the state and now this week’s announcement that after the successful pilot in primary schools this will roll out across the state as well. I really want to commend all students across our state and thank them for their diligence and indeed their parents who supported them with that home learning in the disruption of the pandemic. I think it shows, with the introduction of these mental health professionals, that we really want to try and smooth out those difficulties that students experienced over that time.
I certainly want to thank teachers and education professionals. We value you. We absolutely value you and everything that you have done over the last two years in particular. I say to students: look at those teachers that you admire. I want to acknowledge the late Delma Clapp, who taught me at St Ann’s College. She was an amazing teacher, an amazing community leader and a Warrnambool City councillor, and I learnt so much from her. For students today, look at the Delma Clapps of today. I have met so many of them even as recently as last Friday at Wandong Primary—these brilliant teachers. We are going to need so many more brilliant teachers, and I would say to those young people in education now that they will have a great career. Whether it is in early learning, whether it is in our tech schools or in our TAFE system, we are going to need many of you to prepare our young people for the jobs of the future.
But I also say to those that have been displaced in employment over these years of the pandemic and maybe have been struggling, particularly women in low-paid and casual employment, now is the time to retrain and examine the offer of free TAFE across Victoria but particularly at Melbourne Polytechnic and GOTAFE that serve my electorate, because there are so many free TAFE courses that are there in professions that are in need—in health and in education, but particularly in education. Think about retraining and giving back to our community.
I want to commend the Minister for Education for the great work that he does, his parliamentary secretary and the departmental people who have worked on this bill. There is always so much to talk about in education. I am sorry I have not talked much about the bill, because there has been so much happening on the ground, but this piece of legislation is just yet another example of Victoria leading, whether it is cooperating with our New South Wales partners or talking about these issues at national cabinet. I commend this bill to the house.
Mr DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) (16:48): It is a real pleasure to follow such a comprehensive contribution by the member for Yan Yean. I want to say that clearly this is an important bill for a range of reasons, and data management and privacy is one of them. Obviously we know that the bill will give government and the sector better tools to manage data while also ensuring privacy for students. When you look at the concept of education being predominantly a core service for our government but also a core need and right for the community, that is number one. But number two is it is also an export industry, both the non-tertiary side of it and the tertiary and further education side of it. This bill will allow students to better manage their interaction with education institutions, so it is important for a range of those sorts of reasons. There are some other amendments proposed in this bill which give the minister and the secretary more power to deliver high-quality education at a governance level, at a privacy level and at a data level.
But just to pick up from the member for Yan Yean, it is very difficult to stop any member of this government talking about the wholesale support and investment, both regulatory and budgetary, in education. It is really, really profound. If you look at just this afternoon in question time and the contributions by the Premier and the Deputy Premier on three-year-old kinder, it is really our government that has brought kinder—I mean, there are a lot of great providers, but our government has brought kinder out of the realm of what was conceptually known as babysitting into the realm of being an important part of the start of an education journey. That is what kinder is, and with the year 4 program that we announced the other day, which will lead to 30 hours of pre-prep education, that part of the education sector is now playing the role that it always deserved to play, which was a key fundamental and foundational role for an education pathway. As the Premier said today of two years of kinder, international research strongly indicates it leads to better life outcomes, better quality jobs, higher educational attainment and generally higher income earning for an adult that as a child attended two years of kinder.
Then you move on to the primary and secondary sectors—enormous investments again just this week in expanding the mental health support from the pilot sites that we had in primary schools to 100 schools after the royal commission and now to every school in the public sector and low-cost, low-fee independent schools. You could see that as a mental health investment, but you could also see that profoundly as an education investment because you cannot have the concentration and the learning if you do not have the supports that enable that—the context. That is why breakfast clubs in schools matter. That is why disability and all-ability supports in schools matter. That is why Safe Schools and anti-bullying programs matter—because they provide the context where kids can learn in a first-class education system. That is why moving forward the mental health supports will be in all primary schools and all secondary schools, and all the other supports. That is why buildings matter. That is why this government has made such a big, big deal about school buildings—–1400 school buildings have been upgraded; 100 new schools are being built. Of course you do not learn from the bricks and the mortar; you learn from the teachers, the staff, from other students and from parents, but the context matters. We want, as others have said, including the Minister for Education, first-class educational facilities for a first-class education. This bill also speaks to governance and to data privacy in the sector generally. They too matter.
You go from kinder to primary to secondary and then you go to TAFE, and we see in TAFE—the member for Yan Yean talked about it—free TAFE for hundreds of courses but not just a random selection of courses, courses that absolutely fill a skill gap in the economy, a skill gap that employers have told us they need filled. Two days ago I had the pleasure of attending Holmesglen TAFE’s tunnelling centre. It is squarely in my patch; it is the only campus of Holmesglen which is squarely in my patch, and I love it and I claim it. I attended with the Minister for Training and Skills in the other place, Ms Tierney, and newly elected federal member Carina Garland was there because it is in her federal electorate of Chisholm, and the Prime Minister came. All the show and tell on that day was Victorian.
I am sure the Prime Minister will have a chance, given his passion, his interest, his genuineness and his authenticity, to build that profile that the Victorian government has built in terms of education and a bunch of other areas. But he was being told about all these good things happening at Holmesglen TAFE, including the workforce investment fund or something to that effect—I cannot remember the exact name of the fund—which actually develops the tools for students to learn. For example, students who are seven storeys down below the streets of Melbourne building the tunnels for the Metro Tunnel, building the tunnels for the North East Link, building the tunnels for the Suburban Rail Loop are learning at Holmesglen TAFE in Chadstone in the electorate that I proudly represent. One of the many tools is a 3D goggle set which actually places a student in the context that they will be in on the job with all the safety requirements, all the alerts. The entire experience of being underground is what they are experiencing there. We are investing in the TAFE sector, developing that innovative technology, and there is a whole bunch of other stuff which is amazing—like we are drilling a hole through this automated kind of simulation. You have a simulated vehicle where you are digging holes and breaking through walls. All this is a function of the investment we have made in TAFE, not just in terms of core funding but in terms of the workforce link and investment back into the workforce. This is all the stuff that the Prime Minister was shown, as we were, the rest of us.
I reflect on the fact that this is an entire circle of fulfilment, economically, educationally, personally and professionally, for a bunch of Victorians. I say that because you have free access to many of these courses, so that is number one. You can always do more, but you have a very well funded TAFE sector that can provide a robust first-class learning environment. And what do you have after that? You have a government-backed scheme which says to the major employers in the world who want to do business in Victoria, particularly in construction, ‘You will make sure that you’ll have 10 per cent apprentices on major construction jobs’, because we want to build a domestic labour force in Victoria that is trained and can do the next generation of projects. So there is free entry into a TAFE course, and there are excellent TAFEs that have incredible innovative learning and a pipeline of work through major contracts and major infrastructure projects.
I know I am going to sound like the member for Bayswater in his enthusiasm in a lot of his contributions in this place, but it is extraordinarily impactful when you actually take an education view across from kinder right the way through, after high school, to further education. I will not even get started, because I do not have time, on our investment in the university sector, which is squarely a sector the federal government should invest in and look after. During COVID we gave that sector hundreds of millions of dollars because we knew how important it was. We did not, like somebody in Canberra, tell international students to go home and come back when we are ready for their economic support of us and our economy in the future.
This is a bill that adds to the breadth of work that we have done in a legislative sense and a budgetary sense to support our education sector. This is about governance, this is about privacy and this is about a range of other supports that that sector needs. But we have a far, far bigger track record on this, and I look forward to more investment in the education sector in Victoria. It is good for people in Victoria, it is good for the economy and it is good for our future. I commend the bill to the house.
That the debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to and debate adjourned.
Ordered that debate be adjourned until later this day.