I would like to thank my friend the member for Dunkley for bringing this important motion to the House today. There has probably never been a more important time for a motion like this. It looks at our education sector, which has had such a difficult time during this pandemic—whether it be early learning, primary school, secondary school or tertiary education. I’m so grateful to all the staff, students, families and advocates for education in my electorate who have taken the time, throughout the pandemic and now, to share their experiences with me. They know we need to do so much better in this country. They know that education really is our future and, at the moment, we’re not hitting it as we should.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting Natasha and her team at the Eltham Child Care Cooperative in my electorate. Natasha and her team can only be described as absolute troopers—highly intelligent, very caring troopers who have soldiered through this pandemic making sure that our youngest children are cared for and supported. But, like early educators across Jagajaga, Natasha and her team are feeling let down. They are feeling like they have been abandoned. They are tired of having to adapt, often at short notice, to changing conditions of the pandemic, all the while trying to continue to provide the high-quality education that gives our children the best start to their learning journey. Natasha and her team, and all the early educators across our country, deserve so much better recognition, support and pay for what they do, but they’re not getting it from this government.

Our families deserve so much better as well. Again, the pandemic has revealed to us just how important early education is for children and for parents. And parents are telling me they find the early learning system difficult to navigate. Childcare fees are too expensive. And we’re still in a situation where for many parents, and particularly for many women, if they choose to go back to work for more than a couple of days, they’re in a losing position; they actually spend more on child care than they earn in wages.

I’m proud to be part of a Labor team that knows this current situation can’t continue and is putting front and centre our plan for more affordable child care. It’s a plan I’m really proud of—97 per cent of families will see cheaper child care under a Labor government and no family will be worse off. We take early learning seriously and we want to provide the real support to early educators and families alike.

As the member for Dunkley noted, when we talk about education, we also have to consider that not all students respond to traditional school programs. We need to have the flexibility that recognises this and supports students to find something that works for them. In my electorate, Open House in Macleod does a great job helping young people of secondary-school age to unlock employment opportunities through hands-on work in crafts, mechanics, engineering and woodwork. This program from Open House has seen great success. Graduates of the program have gone on to apprenticeships or other forms of full-time work. I’m proud to have been able to support Open House through the Stronger Communities Program. Programs like this deserve more support and are really important to our country.

In my community, we know the value of TAFE as a key part of our education sector. We know how important it is to have courses and training available to people in our local area. We’re lucky to have two wonderful Melbourne polytechnic campuses at Greensborough and Heidelberg West. But we also know what the Liberals think of TAFE. When the Liberals were last in power in Victoria, they cut TAFE funding so much that the Greensborough TAFE shut down. It was only with a Labor government back in place that the Greensborough TAFE was re-opened to ensure that people in Melbourne’s north-east, in my electorate, had a local provider of skills and training.

On this side of the House, Labor knows the value of TAFE. That is why a federal Labor government will provide 465,000 free TAFE places nationwide. This is a massive investment. I’m very much looking forward to what it will mean for people in my electorate, for young people, who have been dealt a really severe blow through this pandemic, to get on track, to get the skills and learning opportunities, the skills that take them through their future and lead to well-paid secure jobs.

Building on our commitment to skills and training, an Albanese government will ensure that at least one in 10 employees for major government projects are apprentices, trainees or cadets. This is a commitment that will see tens of thousands of Australian workers given the training to set them up for their future. Education is so important. A Labor government will back it at every level.

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