In Parliament I spoke on a Matter of Public Importance raised by Mark Coure, Member for Oatley: education funding under the Gonski agreement.
The Gonski review recommended that schools be funded according to the needs of their students and what was required to educate each of them to a high standard. Each school would get a base level of Commonwealth and State funding, plus additional money or loadings to take into account the size and location of the school and the individual needs of students, such as whether they are from a disadvantaged background or they have a disability.
The Gonski review is a landmark review of funding of schools in Australia as it is the first time that stakeholders across the public and private sectors agree with the needs-based funding model. The Gonski report put into words what every public schoolteacher has known for decades—funding matters and it must be allocated in a way that recognises the basic rights of every child. The Gonski review panel put forward three great notions that have forever changed the debate: first, the public funding of each school to provide a standard of resources to ensure that every student achieves quality outcomes. Secondly, further funding to meet the challenges of economic, social and geographic disadvantage and, thirdly, students with special needs must be funded if they are to achieve great outcomes.
Gonski is much more than another program to address disadvantage or to boost public school funding. It has created an irreversible shift in the commonly held understanding of how the nation's wealth should be allocated to education. The Greens acknowledge and congratulate the New South Wales education Minister for being the first education Minister to commit to the full six years of Gonski funding, and for continuing that commitment despite the recalcitrance of the Federal Minister and the Federal Government.
I have taught for decades in many diverse educational settings. As a criminal lawyer I am aware of the socioeconomic disadvantages of offenders, so it is a misnomer to say that funding matters. In New South Wales there are funding gaps for Aboriginal children and they are missing out on an education that they deserve. The Gonski funding model is not a cure-all or a magic cure; it is a funding model that specifically addresses the needs of students in every school. If we get that right school leaders can get the resourcing, the teachers and the programs that they require to address their needs and enable them to do what they do best—that is, strive for excellence.
For years Australia directed school funding to an advantaged minority and failed to provide resources to the schools most in need which led to a fall in achievement levels. We all know that the future of this country depends on young people being well educated. We must continue that model. The Greens in New South Wales are committed to doing so.