Legislative Council: Thursday, July 06, 2023


Statutes Amendment (Education, Training and Skills Portfolio) Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 27 June 2023.)

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (17:51): I rise to speak in support of a pretty important bill which, amongst many things, proposes to amend section 75(2a) of the Education and Children's Services Act 2019 to provide clarity that the head of an approved learning program has an obligation, along with principals, to notify the education department CE of persistent non-attendance or non-participation by students. This will include TAFE SA or universities being obliged to report non-attendance or non-participation.

This change seeks to strengthen the act to ensure that if any South Australians are at risk of falling through the cracks, those signs are given due attention. Non-attendance and non-participation are strong indicators that we can monitor to make sure that students in South Australia are being supported to engage appropriately with their education and, if that is not happening, they are supported to re-engage

Tracking truancy is an important priority of the Malinauskas Labor government. We know how important it is that children and young people go to school. Poor attendance can be linked to poor student outcomes, especially once patterns of ongoing non-attendance are established within students' lives. We want every child to be going to school regularly, and we want to make sure that parents are supporting their child in going to school regularly. Since coming to government we have started work on addressing non-attendance, including:

funding 100 FTE mental health and learning support positions to support students to prevent them from missing school due to reasons such as, for instance, mental health;

increasing the number of staff on social work duty line 3, with now over 30 FTEs supporting schools. The social work duty line assists schools to address wellbeing and attendance issues and is a support service for schools with a high demand for its use;

supporting a new partnership with many other organisations to deliver new programs of intensive support for Aboriginal families with children who are not attending schools;

providing access to an autism inclusion teacher in every public primary school to make schools more inclusive places where autistic children can feel safe and where they are better supported;

implementing education family conferences, which are evidence-based engagement approaches that provide voluntary, independently facilitated meetings between family members, schools and relevant departmental staff and other professionals. The process offers families greater opportunity to be actively involved in developing arrangements to improve the attendance of their child at school; and

taking non-attendance seriously by taking action against parents who are deliberately preventing their child from going to school.

The Department for Education has been working on a number of cases to get kids back to school. The department will definitely not hesitate to use prosecution as a tool where kids are being deliberately prevented from going to school. This has seen a number of families sending their kids to school after prolonged periods of non-attendance. We will continue to act in all the ways we can to give every South Australian child the opportunity to access a quality education.

The bill also proposes to amend section 130 to provide the chief executive of the education department with the discretion to waive, reduce or refund a charge, allow it to be paid in instalments, or require a person to give security for payment of a charge under section 130. This change relates to full fee paying overseas students, students enrolled in schools who are not residents in this state, and students enrolled in schools who are dependents of a person who is the subject of a visa of a kind prescribed by the regulations. This change will move from the principal holding this power to the department. Currently, the practical administration of this area lies with the education department, so it makes sense to align the legislation with this practice.

The Malinauskas Labor government is proud to support overseas students studying at our schools. The Department for Education's International Strategy 2019-2029 makes a strong commitment to support international education. Our government continues to support this strategy. In recent times, we have waived the fees of Afghan evacuees and Ukrainian refugees to support these families in a time of great difficulty. It is the section of the act that I just mentioned that allows these fees to be waived.

Another way to improve the school experience for South Australia's young people is to ensure that more public schools have sporting facilities that give all South Australia's young people strong opportunities to play sport and enjoy a healthy lifestyle. Governments of all political persuasions have worked to improve sporting facilities at public schools across recent years and I pay tribute to the efforts of the previous government in that regard and the passion that many members opposite have for school sport to be accessible and rewarding for our young people. It is partly because we all recognise how much support there is in the South Australian community for quality sporting facilities at public schools.

It is not only students at school who derive direct benefit from sporting facilities at public schools that Labor and Liberal governments choose to invest in, local sporting clubs benefit also and the broader community as well. There is recognition of this on all sides of politics and members of parliament from both sides regularly engage with the public and with local sporting clubs in this area of policy.

For example, in my recent experience, I know that the Forestville Hockey Club have been advocating for investment in improved sporting facilities at their local public high school. There is strong club support for it. There is a strong level of community support for it. I seek leave to table a letter demonstrating that level of community support because it is a lovely letter from a passionate local club.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.E. HANSON: Another component of this bill is the amendment of the Education and Early Childhood Services (Registration and Standards) Act 2011. The bill proposes to amend section 22 to allow a deputy member of the Education Standards Board to fill a vacancy in the office of the member for whom they are a deputy. Currently, if a vacancy falls before the current term of the appointment ends, the deputy member cannot act in the place of the member. This change allows for a more efficient and a more effective board.

The Malinauskas Labor government strongly supports the Education Standards Board. It is responsible for the regulation of early childhood services in schools. It is key to ensuring an education system of high quality. Since coming to government, the Malinauskas Labor government has appointed Alana Girvin as the new Presiding Member of the board. Ms Girvin has extensive leadership experience, including as principal of several schools. Ms Girvin also established the education department's Incident Management Directorate to respond to critical incidents.

We have also provided the Education Standards Board with additional funding, over $2 million across two financial years, to offset reductions in commonwealth funding. This change is another step by our government in providing the ESB with the support they need.

A further component of this bill is the amendment of the History Trust of South Australia Act 1981. South Australia has the unique benefit of having the History Trust as an agency of the South Australian government. This act sets out its functions including to:

carry out and promote research relevant to the history of SA;

accumulate and care for objects of historical interest;

disseminate or encourage the dissemination of information relevant to the history of South Australia;

encourage the conservation of objects of historical significance to South Australia; and

manage and administer museums and other premises placed under the care, control and management of the trust.

The trust's museums include the Migration Museum in the CBD, the National Motor Museum in Birdwood, the South Australian Maritime Museum in Port Adelaide and the Centre of Democracy in the CBD. In addition to the physical museum, the History Trust often hosts events at other sites, such as university campuses.

The proposed amendment is to change section 2 to broaden the definition of a premises to include 'premises used by the Trust to conduct activities and events'. This is an important change for the History Trust for them to have the power to deal with any inappropriate behaviour at any of their events. It also helps them to manage parking and bring animals to events. It further helps with preventing the reproduction of exhibits.

The act's regulations provide a range of penalties for breach of behaviour, and this change will extend those penalties to temporary exhibitions and events. This is important to protect exhibitions and our history and to make sure that more South Australians can access the fantastic activities of the History Trust.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (18:00): I thank all members who have made a contribution on this matter and look forward to the committee stage going smoothly and swimmingly at this late hour.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage

Bill taken through committee without amendment.

Third Reading

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (18:02): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.