Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation - Ministerial Statement

 

Hon. GW ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Premier) (2.22 pm): Education and training are precursors to better job prospects and greater economic development opportunities. This is as true for Indigenous Queenslanders as it is for non-Indigenous Queenslanders. Having a job obviously means less reliance on welfare, but that is just part of the story. Of greater importance are the benefits of personal growth, family stability and community cohesion that come from people working and providing for their families. That goal underpins this government’s commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders. Welfare should be seen as emergency support to get back on one’s feet, not a way of life that generation after generation becomes used to and comes to rely on. We want to break that cycle, as do many Indigenous leaders who condemn the insidious effect that welfare has had on their communities and their way of life. We want to give young Indigenous Queenslanders a chance to acquire the education and skills they need to compete equally for jobs in the mainstream workforce.

We also want to support Indigenous communities to generate jobs within their own communities through business development and entrepreneurship. An important way the government supports young Indigenous people to reach their potential is through the secondary scholarship program run by the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation. Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a function to mark the latest graduation of QATSIF scholarship holders from year 12. The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people who successfully complete year 12 and achieve the Queensland Certificate of Education is significantly lower than the proportion of non-Indigenous students. But the good news is that the number is increasing, as is the number of young Indigenous people going on to post-secondary study and training.

The completion of year 12 plays a major role in ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are better able to access further education or training opportunities and a wider range of employment opportunities. Since the first QATSIF scholarships were awarded in 2009, the foundation has supported more than 2,400 young students throughout Queensland to achieve their Certificate of Education. Of course, that could not happen without the ongoing support of families, schools and communities.

I want to commend the foundation for providing opportunities that will assist not only current young scholars but also generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the future. The future for Indigenous Queenslanders is all the brighter for the role played by the foundation and for the determination of the young QATSIF scholars. I congratulate each and every one of them.