Speech at launch of Leading Learning 4 All

Simon Birmingham: Thank you very much, Frank, for that welcome and the opportunity to be with you all this morning, albeit briefly. I’ll apologise in advance that I won’t be with you for the playing and tour and learning on the notebooks in a little while but happily I can be here at least for the launch to share this wonderful occasion with you all before having to duck back to Parliament House.

Can I too commence by acknowledging the traditional owners of the Canberra region, the Ngambri and Ngunnawal people and all of Australia’s indigenous peoples. And I often say as Australia’s Education Minister acknowledge in particular that we continue as a nation to learn much more about traditional knowledge and culture, to learn more from traditional knowledge and culture and together as a nation to build upon traditional knowledge and culture. And so I particularly thank you for that welcome to country as a Member of Parliament, as Frank acknowledged, I’ve heard many welcome to countries and that certainly was one of the most thoughtful, considered and deepest welcome to country’s that put real meaning and spirit behind the work, which is so important. 

And I think of course on a day where we are marking and discussing inclusion and education, it is particularly fitting that we should start with a sense of inclusivity as a nation in that regard. Simon, thank you and the team at Melrose High School for hosting us today. I understand ASEPA were particularly keen that Melrose High would host today’s event because of the many positive things and attributes about this school. 

In 2011, Melrose became the first Government school in the ACT and it gained recognition as a MindMatters school, recognising its diversity and capacity to cater for a wide range of academic, physical, social and emotional needs of students. The special education services offered at Melrose include a learning support centre, and learning support for students with intellectual and physical disabilities, a nationally recognised Indigenous Study Centre, the merits of which we saw in that Welcome to Country, and an independent studies centre for extension of literacy and numeracy support so there is much clearly that Melrose can be proud of and thank you for all that you do, but in particular for hosting today.

To the leadership team of ASEPA, Lorraine Hodgson and Fiona Forbes, the authors of this resource, teachers, friends, students, all, thank you so much for joining us today.

It’s the sort of commitment from Simon and teachers here at a school like Melrose, and their team have commitment to inclusive education that today is really all about trying to foster and extend across the near 10,000 schools around Australia, helping to ensure that teachers and principals invest best practice in their schools to create the best opportunity for all students. Because our focus, despite all of the political argy bargy that might occur, a bipartisan focus, I think right around the country, is of course helping all students to achieve their full potential, to achieve all that they can in their time at school. 

I’m proud as a Federal Government that we backed and supported the Australian Special Education Principals Associations to develop in the Leading Learning 4 All website, where, as you heard, some $622,000 of funding because it will help school communities to remove barriers to education for all of their students. The website, which I’ve had the chance to have a bit of a look at and explore, demonstrates how it is that schools can build across leadership, within their capacity and follow through in terms of delivery. And they are the three core themes across all of the different aspects of this website.

Establishing leadership from principals and school leavers that of course, as you heard, from that initial challenge that Frank outlined, to set the direction, the logical approach, the culture and the attitude across the school, as how it is and they are going to be the most inclusive they can be. From that leadership developing [indistinct] capacity within teachers, within teacher aides, within areas, within the entire school community, within other students, to make sure that they are following through and ultimately delivering upon the type of actions that are necessary for [indistinct].

It is a program embedded in self awareness. You’ll see when you take a look at the website, many questions asked about current practice, what it is that school does. Self-awareness about what it is we’re doing now that works and of course what it is that you can do that can work even better into the future.

[Indistinct] resource helps schools be explicit about how to include students with disability. What are the reasonable adjustments that schools can and should make to assist with inclusion of students with disability? In every aspect of learning, in accordance with the established and set disability standards that are agreed right across the country and not just in the formal academic curriculum, but of course in all aspects of school life that are equally rich and important in terms of development of the whole person and their capacity in their post-school lives to lead the richest life possible. 

I’m pleased to hear and to see that teachers in schools across Australia have trialled the specific learning templates and found that they can provide ways to support students in special education needs. That there are practical, positive testimonials, and the teachers say they gained knowledge, confidence and skills to build better learning environments that embrace the entire student enrolment.

This resource of course builds on commitments by state, territory and Commonwealth Government in terms of support for students with disability and in terms of support for special education needs.

Federally, this year we invest, for students with disabilities specifically a record $1.5 billion in support. We know that funding is important. As I say, regardless of all of the arguments that you hear, I recognise that. But of course importantly attitudes, approaches, practice are what then puts funding to good use and makes the greatest difference. That’s why this resource along with our commitment to [indistinct] professional standards, principals and teachers are all about supporting the profession to be its best to achieve what I know every teacher, every principal wants to do and that is of course to do the best for their students, all of those students, regardless of the background or challenges those students may face or the opportunities they may have.

So congratulations to ASEPA for creating this fantastic website. We are thrilled to have partnered with you in doing so. We’re delighted that you are celebrating it today but of course more importantly we look forward to its successful application and utilisation across all of our different school systems in all of our different jurisdictions and so that it makes the best difference for the students who need it most and can gain the most from it. Thank you and well done.