Bills Digest 85 1995-96 Indigenous Education (Supplementary Assistance) Amendment Bill 1996


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WARNING:
This Digest is prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments.

This Digest was available from 22 May 1996

CONTENTS

Passage History

Date introduced: 9 May 1996
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs
Commencement: On Royal Assent.

Purpose

The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Indigenous Education (Supplementary Assistance) Act 1989.(1) The amendments made by the Bill include:

  • the insertion of a new object into the Act;
  • the provision of statutory criteria for payments available for supplementary recurrent expenditure. Formulae for per capita based funding are provided. There will also be funding available for particular projects.
  • an increase in the amount appropriated from Consolidated Revenue for the Aboriginal Education Strategic Initiatives Program from $83,636,000 to $91,486,000 for the period 1 January 1996 to 30 June 1997,
  • provision for money to be appropriated from Consolidated Revenue for the Aboriginal Education Strategic Initiatives Program during the third triennium of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy (ie to 30 June 2000).

Background

Indigenous education has been the subject of a large number of national reports during the past twenty years - beginning with a 1975 report by the Aboriginal Consultative Group to the Schools Commission. Most recently there was a National Review of Education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples chaired by Mandawuy Yunupingu. The review was established in 1993 and reported in 1994.(2)

In 1988 an Aboriginal Education Policy Task Force was appointed by Minister for Employment, Education and Training and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The Task Force's report proposed the establishment of a federal Aboriginal Education Policy (AEP). The AEP was developed co-operatively by the Commonwealth, the States and the Territories in 1989 and emphasised 'involvement, access, participation and outcomes.' The importance of the AEP has been described in these terms:

for the first time, the States and the Territories were able to identify and unanimously support a series of national goals for indigenous education; the Policy facilitated many new initiatives that created a national focus on indigenous education and raised the profile of the issue; the Policy was based on a triennial funding model enabling, for the first time, longer term planning for programs; and the national Policy included a supplementary funding program, the Aboriginal Education Strategic Initiatives Scheme, to fill the gaps in the programs of the States and Territories.'(3)

The establishment of the AEP was followed by the enactment of the Aboriginal Education (Supplementary Assistance) Act 1989 which provides funds for the Aboriginal Education Strategic Initiatives Program (AESIP).

The AEP has four long term objectives:

  • increasing the involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in educational decision making;
  • ensuring equality of access to educational services;
  • achieving equity of educational participation; and
  • enabling equitable and appropriate education outcomes.

The AEP sets down 21 agreed goals for Aboriginal education covering all education sectors, to be pursued by all governments. State and Territory government responses to the education related recommendations of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody indicate that the AEP has continuing support from all governments.

AESIP, which underpins the AEP, provides funds to organisations and institutions to supplement the cost of delivering educational services to Aboriginal people. The program supports pre schools, primary and secondary schools, and technical and further education. The funding is provided by the Commonwealth as a supplement to the normal provision of funds for education to the State and Territories and is committed on a forward triennial basis. The second triennium of the AEP covers the period 1993/94 to 1995/96.

For the second triennium, the Commonwealth nominated three national priorities:

  • responding to the relevant recommendations of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in custody;
  • implementing the National Aboriginal Languages and Literacy Strategy, the AEP components of which are:
  • the Aboriginal Literacy Strategy which provides for an intensification of efforts to improve English literacy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander school children and adults with limited experience at school;
  • the Aboriginal Languages Education Strategy promotes and facilitates the teaching of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in school, develops bilingual education programs, and will move towards the teaching of aboriginal languages in TAFE and higher education; and
  • implementing the National Reconciliation and Schooling Strategy.

Specific recommendations of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody, which discussed funding under the Aboriginal Education (Supplementary Assistance) Act 1989, included increased employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education workers from 1993 and an expansion of pre school services from 1994.

The National Reconciliation Schooling Strategy provides for:

  • the development of appropriate and consistent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander curriculum studies for all schools from preschool to year 12;
  • the development of consistent teacher education courses;
  • the establishment of a sister schools scheme; and
  • a grass roots campaign to promote greater understanding by students of their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and its history.3

As well as AESIP, the other major Aboriginal education program funded by the Commonwealth is the Aboriginal Study Assistance Scheme (ABSTUDY) which provides income support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students aged 14 years or over undertaking primary education, students undertaking secondary education, and full and part time tertiary education.

The Indigenous Education (Supplementary Assistance) Amendment Bill 1996 deals with the funding of the Aboriginal Education Strategic Initiatives Program. The Bill's Second Reading Speech states that:

The Government intends to make major changes to the Aboriginal Education Strategic Initiatives Program from January 1997, with a new funding triennium to commence at that time.

In a press release issued on 14 May 1996, the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs stated that poor educational retention rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples would be addressed in the Bill by:

... ensuring that the majority of funds under AESIP will be provided through per capita based arrangements, which will ensure that the bulk of the funding is predictable and based on changes in enrolment demands. In addition, an element of the available funds will also be set aside for Strategic Results which will be time limited and outcomes oriented.(4)

Educational Participation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

The National Review of Education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples reported in 1994 that educational experiences for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples improved 'in the last five years'. However, the Review found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continued to be 'the most educationally disadvantaged groups in Australia.' Among other things, the Review's Summary and Recommendations states that:

  • 'while the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other Australian 4 year olds preschool participation has almost halved, it remains significant at 9.5 per cent,(5)
  • in all but two States/Territories there appears to be increasing levels of participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in primary school education. The majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children now commence and complete a primary school education,
  • 'significant numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secondary school students do not complete compulsory Years 8 or 9. An estimated 25 per cent or more of those who start secondary school leave before the end of Year 10.'(6)
  • 'Nationally, just over 25 per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who started Year 7 or 8 five or four years ago (depending on the State or Territory) were enrolled in Year 12 in 1993. ... Despite the concerted efforts of the last decade to raise Year 12 retention rates for all Australian students, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students' current Year 12 retention rate is now what it was for all Australian students more than twenty years ago.'(7)

Main Provisions

Item 1 of Schedule 1 repeals the current definition of 'indigenous' and replaces it. The current definition of 'indigenous' in relation to a person is 'a member of the Aboriginal race of Australia and includes a descendent of the indigenous inhabitants of the Torres Strait Islands.'

The replacement definition will remove the implication that Torres Strait Islanders are a subsidiary group.

Item 8 of Schedule 1 inserts new section 7A into the Act. New section 7A provides for an additional object for the Act - that of developing culturally appropriate education services for Indigenous people. At present, objects of the Act are set out in sections 4 - 7 and include increasing Indigenous involvement in educational decisions, ensuring equality of access to education, ensuring equity of participation in education and achieving equitable and appropriate educational outcomes for Indigenous people.

Item 12 inserts new section 9A into the Act. New section 9A provides that Indigenous education agreements may provide for the payment of money either for funding supplementary recurrent expenditure or for funding for a particular project or for both. If the agreement is for funding for supplementary recurrent expenditure, then the amount of funding is determined according to new Division 2 of Part 2 of the Act.

Item 14 of Schedule 1 inserts new Division 2 into Part 2 of the Act. New Division 2 is entitled 'Funding for supplementary recurrent expenditure.' The amount of supplementary recurrent expenditure payments available for a funding year is determined by the application new sections 10B to 10F and according to a per capita funding table set out in new section 10A.

The per capita funding table in new section 10A provides for government and non-government rates in different educational sectors. These sectors are remote and non-remote pre-schools; remote and non-remote primary schools; remote and non-remote junior secondary schools; remote and non-remote senior secondary schools; and remote and non-remote vocational educational and training institutions (VETs).

New sections 10B to 10F set out the eligibility criteria and formulae to be applied to determine a per capita amount for each educational sector. New sections 10B to 10F cover the funding of government educational institutions, systemic(8) non-government schools and pre-schools; non-systemic(9) non-government schools and pre-schools, and non-government VETs.

New sections 10G to 10K set out how preschool, school and VET student numbers are to be determined for the purposes of the Act.

Item 16 of Schedule 1 omits the figure of $83,636,000 currently appropriated for the period 1 January 1996 to 30 June 1997 in subsection 13B(4) of the Act and substitutes the figure of $91,486,000. The Bill's Explanatory Memorandum states: 'This increases reflects the Commonwealth's contribution that time period as a result of its commitments to the third triennium of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy.'(10)

Item 17 amends section 13B of the Act for the purpose of making permitted payments from Consolidated Revenue to the Aboriginal Education Strategic Initiatives Program during the third triennium of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy. The amounts are:

  • $102,376,000 for the period 1 January 1997 to 30 June 1998,
  • $114,360,000 for the period 1 January 1998 to 30 June 1999,
  • $121,976,000 for the period 1 January 1999 to 30 June 2000.

Endnotes

(1) The legislation was originally enacted as the Aboriginal Education (Supplementary Assistance) Act 1989. Its title was amended by the Indigenous Education (Supplementary Assistance) Amendment Act 1995.

(2) National Review of Education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Summary and Recommendations; Final Report; Statistical Annex; (3 vols.), AGPS, Canberra, 1994.

(3) Schwab, RG Twenty years of policy recommendations for indigenous education: overview and research implications, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Discussion Paper, No.92/1995, Australian National University, Canberra.

(4) Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, '$96 million in additional funds to improve Aboriginal education,' Media Release, 14 May 1996.

(5) National Review of Education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Summary and Recommendations, AGPS, Canberra, September 1994, p.22.

(6) Ibid.

(7) Ibid, p.23.

(8) 'Systemic schools are schools belonging to a system administered by a central authority responsible for their funding and overall policy. Such schools are declared to be part of an approved school system by the Minister .. for the purposes of funding legislation.' See Jackson, K Commonwealth Grants for Non-Government Schools in the States, 1976 to 1981: By Federal Electoral Division and School. Basic Paper No.3, Legislative Research Service, Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1983. Catholic parochial schools are an example of systemic non-government schools.

(9) 'Non-systemic schools are simply those schools which are not part of a school system. It should be noted that not all Catholic schools are systemic schools.' Ibid.

(10) Indigenous Education (Supplementary Assistance) Amendment Bill 1996, Explanatory Memorandum.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Jennifer Norberry Ph. 06 277 2476
21 May 1996
Bills Digest Service
Parliamentary Research Service

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

PRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1323-9032
© Commonwealth of Australia 1996

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1996.

This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated: 22 May 1996

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