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February 13, 2014

A commitment to increase school participation rates of indigenous students through the ‘Closing the Gap’ initiative has been welcomed by The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester.

Mr Chester was in Federal Parliament this week as Prime Minister Tony Abbott handed down his first ‘Closing the Gap’ address.

“The annual address is an important opportunity for Members of Parliament on both sides of the chamber to recommit themselves to achieving practical outcomes for some of the most disadvantaged communities in the nation,” Mr Chester said.

“Across Gippsland we have a large population of indigenous people and some great strides forward have been made over the past decade but we have a long way to go on key issues such as health, education and employment outcomes.

“I support the Prime Minister’s focus on improving school attendance rates because a good education is the key to future employment.

“We need to break the cycle of welfare dependency that exists amongst some indigenous communities and help individuals achieve the financial freedom which comes from gaining employment. I look forward to working with local agencies, other levels of government and the business community to improve employment outcomes in the future.”

Prime Minister Abbott told Parliament that a new objective to end the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous school attendance within five years had been added to the existing ‘Closing the Gap’ targets.

“It’s hard to be literate and numerate without attending school; it’s hard to find work without a basic education; and it’s hard to live well without a job,” Mr Abbott said.

“Right around our country, it should be possible to be proudly Aboriginal and a full participant in modern Australia. That doesn’t just mean access to a good education in cities, towns and remote settlements – it means actually going to school.

“One of the worst forms of neglect is failing to give children the education they need for a decent life.

“We will know that this gap has been all-but-closed when schools achieve 90 per cent plus attendance regardless of their percentage of Aboriginal students.

“We will know that Aboriginal people are living better when children go to school, adults go to work and the ordinary law of the land is respected and enforced.”