DR CHALMERS (Rankin) (10:56): Luana and Kathleen are both loving mothers in their 30s from my local community. Jarrau is an 18-year-old recent graduate from Woodridge State High School, also in my electorate. None of them thought they were cut out for university or it that was a realistic option for them, but I'm so delighted to say that all three of them are now studying at Griffith University's Logan campus in my part of the world. All three of them are the first in their immediate family to attend university and all three are role models for their loved ones. They can credit their own dedication, commitment, sacrifices and drive for making the transition from thinking that further study wasn't for them to enrolling in and attending uni to advance their prospects in life, but I know they would also acknowledge that the terrific outreach, support and mentoring services provided to them by Griffith have helped and are still helping them throughout their journey.
Mr Deputy Speaker Georganas, as you know, higher education shouldn't be just for people from the wealthiest suburbs or the fanciest families. It's a disappointing reality that only about 17 per cent of people—less than one in six—aged 25 to 34 in my local community have a bachelor's degree or higher. When you compare that to the national average of 35 per cent, you see that people in my local community are less than half as likely to have a uni degree as the rest of the country. This needs to change. Going to uni or TAFE should be about harnessing the talents and efforts of people right around Australia including, if not especially, in communities like mine. That's why I'm so proud and pleased that Labor last week announced a $174 million package to go towards mentoring and supporting people from disadvantaged communities and underrepresented groups to go on to further study at TAFE or university. It'll be vital for ensuring that communities like mine with low graduation rates will have those opportunities. As Kathleen, whom I mentioned at the outset, said in her own words:
If I could turn back time, I would have gone to uni straight out of school. At the time, I didn't think I was smart enough to go, but now there are all these programs to make the pathway easier.
Kathleen, who is now 38, studies nursing and has encouraged her kids to pursue university degrees. One of the staff members in the programs at Griffith University, Kwan Borden, who is a friend of mine, summed up the benefits of these kinds of programs well when he said:
The programs are really about raising aspirations for university study, so people can see university as an option for them to raise their outcomes in life.
I thank and acknowledge the members for Sydney and Maribyrnong in particular not only for their announcement last week but also, more than that, for believing deeply in educational opportunity and, in doing so, believing in my community and the people who make it terrific.