Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Educating children for a stronger future in the Northern Territory

Joint Media Release with:

  • Peter Garrett MP, Minister for School Education
    Warren Snowdon MP, Minister for Indigenous Health, Member for Lingiari
    Senator Trish Crossin, Senator for the Northern Territory

Children across the Northern Territory will continue to have better access to improved education, with a $583 million investment over ten years as part of the Australian Government’s Stronger Futures package.

Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory have told the Government that education is a priority.

School attendance and enrolment rates in many communities are still unacceptable and more needs to be done to ensure all children are getting a decent education and attending school every day.

The funding will ensure that 200 teaching positions are retained in remote Northern Territory schools to ensure children have access to quality teaching.

We know that the quality of teaching is critical to helping children learn vital literacy and numeracy skills so they can have the best chance of getting a job in the future.

We will continue to invest in quality teaching initiatives to ensure teachers have the skills and support to teach disadvantaged students and to help children re-engage with school.

Aboriginal people have told us that it was important for teachers to have the skills they need to ensure children are getting the right support.

This investment will ensure that all remote teachers, including local Aboriginal teachers, have the skills they need to provide specialist teaching in intensive numeracy and literacy for students with English as a second language, or who may experience learning difficulties.

The funding will also assist the Northern Territory Government to invest in professional development for Aboriginal school staff. This will help to increase the number of Aboriginal people with education qualifications and create pathways to assist local people to become teachers and education workers in their communities.

The Government will also continue to fund the School Nutrition Program, providing nutritious meals to about 5,000 students in 67 schools every school day to help them learn over the next decade.

About 170 local Aboriginal staff are employed through this program to help in the preparation and delivery of meals.

The Government understands that adequate housing for teachers is critical to getting the best and brightest teachers to commit to teaching in remote communities.

We are providing funding to build up to 100 teacher houses in remote Northern Territory communities to tackle the shortages in staff housing. This will improve the attraction and retention of high-quality teachers in remote schools.

Since 2009 the Australian Government has provided about $31 million for the construction of teacher housing in remote areas of the Northern Territory.

The funding announced today includes the Government’s previously announced $85.6 million enhanced Improving School Enrolment and Attendance through Welfare Reform Measure (SEAM).

This measure will be closely aligned with the Northern Territory Government’s Every Child Every Day strategy, to ensure greater engagement between schools and families and give parents extra support when they need it.

Under this initiative, if children fall below the set attendance benchmark, schools and Centrelink will work with families to develop attendance plans that will work to address barriers to attendance. This funding for SEAM includes providing Centrelink social workers and other support services to assist families.

If parents do not meet their part of the agreed attendance plan, every attempt will be made to assist them to get their child to school. If children still do not attend school, income support payments will be suspended. Payments will be reinstated once the parent gives clear signals they are complying with their responsibilities and re-engages with the school.

The Gillard Government has already invested significantly in improving the quality of education in Northern Territory schools, including:

  • $16 million to expand pre-school services;
  • $70 million in additional funding for schools in poor communities;
  • $256 million in new school infrastructure under the Building the Education Revolution and a further $10 million for classrooms in remote schools; and
  • $12 million to build Trades Training Centres.

Every Australian child deserves a good education to give them the best start in life.

By improving access to education in remote communities we are helping to build a stronger future for Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory.