Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (16:09): Last week I had the great pleasure of having Rhiannon Pace from Grafton, New South Wales, work in my office for two days as part of the Learn Earn Legend! Work Exposure in Government program. Rhiannon, a student in year 11 at South Grafton High School, says she would like to study law and international studies at the University of Queensland when she finishes school. During her placement, Rhiannon had the opportunity of sitting at a committee meeting, sitting in the gallery at question time and taking a tour with David Field from my office through the entire Parliament House, as well as gaining a general insight into what I do on a day-to-day basis. I am hoping she can report back to me on that. The LEL WEX program is designed and implemented for the purpose of reaching Indigenous senior high school students from across the Australian continent, particularly from remote and rural areas, to offer them a taste of what it is like to work in Parliament House and to expose them to the vast, diverse, ever-changing field of government. With our forever-increasing emphasis on the significance of education and our aims of the Closing the Gap campaign between Indigenous and non-Indigenous in the areas of education, employment and health, the program is certainly an excellent mechanism, providing a real insight and, thereby, incentive for our Indigenous students to demonstrate where a comprehensive education can take them—in this case, perhaps a position in the public service.
Many of the students, including Rhiannon, had never set foot in Canberra, let alone Parliament House, before, so for many it was a truly eye-opening and all-encompassing week. Throughout the week students had the opportunity to see some of the sights of Canberra itself and to meet some spectacular people with an admirable passion for what they do and who thus provided them with a source of inspiration. On a number of occasions through the week the students had the chance to hear from several notable Australians including Preston Campbell, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Scott Prince and Libby Cook-Black, all outstanding Indigenous leaders in their fields and thus excellent ambassadors for the campaign. Each of these spokespeople shared their experiences and journeys to where they are now, raised points that many of the students could relate to and really reiterated the fact that any dream can be achieved with determination and consistency, the fundamental principle of the campaign. Furthermore, it is one of the hopes of the program that the students will return home equipped with a range of unforgettable experiences they can share with their communities. Hopefully, we can see this program expand and flourish in the years to come.
Another aspect of the program is that the students have the rare opportunity to gain work exposure in a federal government agency. Each of the students was matched with the department or agency which appeared to suit their interests and capabilities as specified in their application forms, and Rhiannon spent her placement in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
We fervently hope to see the program continue and grow, reaching Indigenous students from across Australia and influencing their career prospects. Hopefully, we will see some of the students join us in the public sector in the future, ultimately increasing Indigenous political representation in the long term. I want to thank Rhiannon for drafting this terrific contribution to the Federation Chamber.