Taskforce and strategy imperative to improve regional education outcomes
Posted May 31, 2018
Cathy asked Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Question Time if he would commit to the establishment of a taskforce to develop a national regional education strategy, in line with recommendations in the Halsey report.
Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (14:11): Mr Speaker—
Opposition members interjecting—
The SPEAKER: The member for Indi will just pause for a second. If members on my left could cease interjecting, the member for Indi could ask her question and I'd be able to hear it.
Ms McGOWAN: My question is to the Prime Minister and it's about regional education. Prime Minister, in my electorate of Indi 6.2 per cent of residents have tertiary qualifications compared to the state average of 17.8 per cent. This week the government agreed to all of the recommendations in the independent review into regional, rural and remote education by Professor Halsey. The review called for the establishment of a national regional education strategy and task force to deliver these recommendations. Prime Minister, will you commit to establishing the task force, developing a national regional education strategy to improve the education outcomes of all regional Australians?
Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth—Prime Minister) (14:12): I thank the honourable member for her question, and I commend her for her strong commitment to supporting regional students, regional universities and regional economic growth.
My government is committed to bridging the divide between education outcomes in the city and in the bush. We recognise, as the member does, that thriving regional and rural communities are a key to Australia's success and that they need a high-performing education system, and that no matter where you go to school you deserve the opportunity to pursue your passions and receive a quality education. That's why we undertook the review, led by Professor Halsey, that the honourable member has referred to.
Yesterday, the government released its response to the review, and that announcement showed its commitment to delivering better outcomes and more opportunities for regional, rural and remote students. It showed our commitment to taking a whole-of-government approach to this issue, with the Deputy Prime Minister and the ministers responsible for education, regional communications, regional development, local government and social services joining together for the announcement. The government's accepted all 11 recommendations of the review. In doing so, we're putting the education needs of the almost 400,000 students from regional, rural and remote communities front and centre.
Recommendation 11 is one that will be of particular interest to the member for Indi. It's to establish a national focus for regional, rural and remote education to enhance access, outcomes and opportunities in regions. The government acknowledges that a one-size-fits-all approach to regional policy does not work, and I know the honourable member agrees with that, so we're investing in partnerships with communities to ensure that national policies are informed by local people living in the regions. The government will undertake an annual assessment of the adequacy of the support universities offer students in regional, rural and remote areas on transitioning to higher education, including student accommodation—a key issue—and that information will be included on the national admissions information platform. In the recent budget, we provided $28.2 million to expand accessibility to sub-bachelor programs in regional areas and $14 million to expand accessibility for bachelor students at regional study hubs. We're creating 500 new commencing sub-bachelor places at Australian universities, an additional 500 Commonwealth supported bachelor places for students—
The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will resume his seat for a second. The member for Indi on a point of order?
Ms McGowan: Yes, a point of order: a question of relevance. I actually asked about a national strategy.
Mr TURNBULL: I've been outlining what the government's strategy is. I'll just complete briefly in the short time left. This is a matter of enormous interest to the government and to the honourable member. There's a lot more to be said and a lot more work to be done, and I look forward to working with her on it.