Simon Birmingham: Thank you for your welcome, to College Chair Tim Foster, Pastor Will, to captains, college captains Harry and Courtney, members of the SRC, students who made us feel so welcome upon my arrival today. It’s a pleasure for me to be here, to be here with my friend and Federal Parliamentary colleague Keith Pitt, who represents part of Hervey Bay and surrounding communities in Canberra as your voice and representative in coming to Canberra, Ted Sorensen, the local State MP, Mayor, Councillors… teaching staff, parents, members of the school community, boys and girls in the front, young Australians in the back. Thank you so much for you having me here today and giving me the opportunity to see your school and to celebrate the fabulous new facilities here at your school.

As the Federal Minister for Education, I get to visit schools all over Australia. One of the striking things is that no two schools are ever the same. Each has their own unique character; each has their own challenges. Each has a different, of course, geographic setting [indistinct]. Standing here looking out at your oval, the woodlands full of pines, I can see the beautiful environmental setting of this school. Each has different buildings, different facilities, and each [indistinct] provides a new opportunity to you, the students at that school. But importantly, each of course sets in place a foundation for whatever it is that your life may hold.

Our entire lives are learning experiences, from the moment we’re born right through our working lives and beyond. But most important, most important [inaudible]. That’s why the school experience is so important. For those of us who [inaudible]. We take for granted, we take for granted what our parents give to support us in coming to these schools, and what our teachers do in their [indistinct], their capacity, their enthusiasm to help you learn the most you can at school. What the school community gives to support you in [indistinct]. I think it’s really important that you do make the most of each different opportunity.

Today we celebrate our buildings – new buildings, new facilities – in the school. I’m proud, as the Federal Government, that we were able to give some $650,000 to support Lutheran education in Australia at St James College here in your development. New science resources, new general learning areas, a new outdoor learning area, all of them new facilities that importantly refresh and add vibrancy [indistinct] to the students.

But of course, facilities are just bricks and mortar. It’s actually you, the students, and your teaching staff and your parents that make all the difference to a school like this, and make its accomplishments that much more important. I want to pay particular tribute, firstly to the teaching staff, to those who [indistinct] here to learn and to do your best, because it’s your teachers who make the real difference. The buildings, the bricks and mortar, help them, give them an environment, you an environment in which to learn, but it is their dedication to help you do your best that makes the real difference. And to your parents, [inaudible]. Parents are the most important influence and the learning environment is a place of important influence in the overall success of a student and what they go along to attain [indistinct].

We as a Federal Government in Canberra are committed to supporting parents and families in having a choice of education, in being able to choose for their child the setting that works best for them, in providing strong support, growing support. It will keep growing each and every year into the future to government schools and to non-government schools. Giving the choice, the opportunity [inaudible] to choose school and [indistinct] education systems for a variety of other systems that [indistinct] position well Australian [indistinct] students of [inaudible] your education, whatever your family circumstances or background may be.

So congratulations to those in the school community who in recent years have overseen phenomenal growth in this but [indistinct] been growing this school and have done so in supporting students and growing student numbers [inaudible].

I came here [indistinct] university campus just down the road. Some of you will no doubt go on and probably study at that university. Others will go further afield to different universities. Others will undertake valuable careers, trades, apprenticeships, and others will go straight into contribution in the workforce. Some will help innovate, develop new things, start your own business, be great contributors [indistinct]. Some may one day [indistinct] in the nation’s Parliament. Who knows where [inaudible].

The facilities we celebrate today [indistinct] part of helping you along your journey [indistinct]. Good luck to each and every one of you boys and girls and young Australians here today. Congratulations to the school community on all of your achievements, and it is my pleasure to [indistinct] the facilities that you have constructed so successfully [inaudible].