Abbott heaps praise on remote schools

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has visited the best indigenous classrooms he’s ever seen and says it’s partly to do with the region’s strong faith.


Mr Abbott is touring local schools in the Northern Peninsula Area on the tip of Queensland.

The predominantly Christian region is home to a mixture of Torres Strait islander and Aboriginal kids and its three schools teach 600 children from five communities.

School attendance at the three NPA State College campuses hovers around 70 per cent, higher than many indigenous communities on the mainland.

Mr Abbott attributes that to a strong social fabric, cohesiveness between clans and a deep faith.

“I’m not saying that (a strong faith) is the prerequisite of strong societies but it certainly can be an influence,” he told reporters at the Bamaga campus.

The classrooms at the junior campus are the best he’s seen.

Mr Abbott was joined by Social Services Minister Scott Morrison and assistant education minister Simon Birmingham on Wednesday as he stressed the importance of turning up to school.

“It doesn’t matter what you want to be, you’re going to have a chance of being that if you get a decent education,” he said.

“If you don’t turn up to school, none of these things are even possibilities unless you are rescued by spectacular light.”

Kids bellowed out their school song for the prime minister, singing “we go to school to learn many things … so I can be the best I can be”.

About a dozen children were awarded certificates by the prime minister for maintaining 98 to 100 per cent school attendance.

Mr Morrison stressed the importance of early childhood education, noting the distinct advantage enjoyed by children in Bamaga who had attended pre-preparation school.

“Early childhood education for indigenous communities can be a real game changer,” he said.

He promised to focus on indigenous communities in his jobs and families package and the childcare safety net.

Mr Abbott said until recently the Bamaga junior campus had been difficult and troubled but was now filled with enthusiastic, energetic children.

Earlier, the prime minister joined local truancy officers rounding up kids to bus them into school.

There are 19 officers in the Northern Peninsula Area purple army who are employed from within each of the five communities and led by co-ordinator Robert Tamwoy.

They provide transport, breakfast and engage with the local communities to communicate any problems back to the school.

“Basically there’s no limits to what we’ll do to bring kids to school,” Mr Tamwoy told AAP.