NATIONAL RECONCILIATION WEEK
The Hon. TONY CATANZARITI
[5.05 p.m.]: Last Monday I had the very great pleasure of attending a flag raising ceremony at TAFE New South Wales, Riverina Institute, Griffith campus. The ceremony marked the occasion of National Reconciliation Week. It recognised the role of education in rural communities. It also celebrated the partnership between Griffith City Council, TAFE New South Wales, Riverina Institute and Charles Sturt University, and their work on the Western Riverina Higher Education Project. I was pleased to attend the flag raising ceremony because I believe education is a very real way forward for reconciliation in our community. I noted in my speech on that occasion that both the Riverina Institute and Charles Sturt University have been considerable forces in promoting reconciliation in the area. They have done this not only through the research efforts of their academics, and the dialogue that research creates but, more importantly, through educating their students, both indigenous and non-indigenous.
Education is important as it provides non-indigenous students with access to information that can counter stereotypes and perceived knowledge and behaviour, and it provides indigenous students with the opportunity of a quality education. While most take this for granted, the people of rural and regional New South Wales do not. That is why we are so pleased to have our own universities and TAFE colleges, which are very real centres of influence in our communities. They undertake exemplary programs to reach out into rural New South Wales to give our citizens better access to education and the benefits that accrue from that education.
The Western Riverina Higher Education Project is a collaborative program with two pathways to higher education from the Riverina Institute: the Integrated Business Program has been operational since 2004, and the Graduate Certificate in Management (Professional Practice) commenced last year. Building on these successes, an early childhood program pilot begins in July, and a nursing pathway leading to a Bachelor of Nursing will commence at Griffith in 2011. Combined with the wonderful efforts of the Koori Outreach Options for Learning Program at the Riverina Institute—I spoke of this in my adjournment speech of 12 May—I am convinced that educational opportunities for our indigenous community are growing. I hope that many younger members of our indigenous community, and even older members, will partake of the opportunities being offered by Charles Sturt University and the Riverina Institute.
The Koori Outreach Options for Learning program—KOOL—with its high retention rate of students and their movement into work and further education, provides a great pathway into these and other areas of study. I am pleased to restate my strong support for and admiration of this program. The flag raising was a great example of reconciliation at work. It was attended by people such as Carolyn White and Alice Watts from Koori Outreach Options for Learning program; Deputy Vice Chancellor of Charles Sturt University, Professor Ross Chambers; Rosemary Campbell, Director of the Riverina Institute; and Peter Brooks, General Manager of Griffith City Council. This ceremony shows what is occurring on the ground in regional and rural New South Wales. It should act as a model for us all. I thank Mrs Gloria Goolagong for her warm welcome to country. I wish all every success on these partnerships, which bring understanding and conciliation to our communities.