Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (11:08): I have said before in this place that I represent a young electorate. About 15 per cent of people in the Blacktown local government area are under 30 and, in the electorate I am proud to represent, about a third of people are under the age of 19. This means that preparing young people for life after school is a big focus for many families, parents, schools and community organisations. In consideration of this, it was a delight to be able to kick off the No School No Play program in the Chifley electorate. This year we ran it again.
No School No Play is a federal government program involving various sporting codes and I was delighted that we could join up with Basketball Australia this year. Basketball Australia was funded to roll this program out at three other sites around the country and they agreed to run the program with us in Chifley. They would run the program as long as we could find local support to fund it, so we teamed up with some sponsors. For their support I thank Steve Holmes from Woolworths in Plumpton and Natalie Samia from Woolies corporate; Rob Ewin and Marcus James from Westpac; and Walter Kmet from WentWest, the new partner that runs the Western Sydney Medicare local. There are 120 students and six schools: Chifley College and its Bidwill, Mount Druitt and Shalvey campuses; Evans High School; Plumpton High School; and St Clair High School. The students were put through their paces in coaching clinics led by Western Sydney boy Ben Knight. He has played basketball here and overseas and is a former Sydney Kings captain. He was just tremendous. I really valued his input. Teachers and students welcomed the care and diligence that he committed to this program, along with ‘Mr Basketball, Bob Turner, NBL Hall-of-Famer and coach extraordinaire. He now heads up the Sydney Blue Sox in the Australian Baseball League—a true gentleman I have spoken about in the House.
The message was: professional athletes do not just turn up on a playing field or a court; they have to work at their skills. Linking the power of sport to motivating students to engage in school and build their personal bank of skills to give them more options later in life was the big aim of this program. Ben Knight said to the Mt Druitt and St Mary staff that, ‘It is not about winning or losing. The program is about fuelling bodies, building teamwork and improving school attendance.’
The local paper and also the Blacktown Advocate have been fantastic in putting a positive light on the achievements of local youth. Ben Knight, as I said, mentioned fuelling bodies. I was delighted that our new partner in this program, WentWest, supported our work by sending along nutritionists who gave insights into how healthy eating can help in daily life.
After the gruelling six-week coaching clinics, we held a terrific carnival and graduating ceremony, with Opals and Canberra Capitals coach Carrie Graf present, along with Mr Magic, NBL legend and Sydney Kings senior vice-president, Steve Carfino, who joined BA’s CEO, Kristina Keneally, Ben Knight and Bob Turner. We presented every student with a certificate and a Spalding basketball. I want to thank Russell Sports’s Anita Kradzins for her help. The kids were just over the moon about receiving these certificates and balls.
I want to read some evaluations. One is from Sarah Hamad from the Shalvey at Chifley College. She said, ‘My principal was very happy with the outcomes of the program and pleased to see our school, Chifley College Shalvey, in the media in such a positive light. Students are still talking about it. I even heard one the other day talking about eating wholemeal bread instead of white bread because it was better for them.’ Amazing!
Evans High principal Kay Smith—and thank you for hosting the graduation, Evans High—said, ‘We identified a number of students who were perhaps on the edge of their attendance and we thought, “Let’s engage them,” and it has been very successful.’
I just want to thank: Sarah Hamad from Chifley College, Shalvey; Marilyn Hill, the Aboriginal education officer, and Tanya McEwen, the teacher who attended the carnival from Chifley College, Bidwill; Karen Attard from Chifley College, Mt Druitt; Plumpton Highs’s Claire Lehn; St Clare’s Catholic High’s Brian Pestano and Robert Portelli; and, from Evans High, Michael Hoareau. Thank you to all of them.
I want to pay tribute to the leadership of Kristina Keneally and Basketball Australia, who understand the value of basketball in building community links to help deliver valuable life lessons. I also wanted to acknowledge Basketball Australia’s school engagement officer, Elyshia O’Neil—cool, calm, collected but, importantly, committed. She went above and beyond and is a tremendous asset to BA and this program. Schools exceptionally value her work.
Finally, I want to make an important recognition of every single student who participated in the program. You are all an asset to our area and to your families, and I look forward to you all evolving into our own local legends. Everyone associated with the program wishes every student the best possible success in their lives.