Pictured here before my speech yesterday with Adjunct Professor John G Kelly AM, CEO of the Heart Foundation and Ms Sharon McGowen, CEO of the Stroke Foundation. I am pleased to be the co-convener of the Parliamentary Friends of the Heart Foundation and the Stroke Foundation for the 45th Parliament.
Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (10:43): On Monday 25 April, CSL Behring celebrated 100 years of operations. I was very fortunate to attend a commemorative tour of the CSL Behring's facility in my electorate of Calwell, and later a formal dinner to celebrate the CSL's centenary on 14 April.
CSL originally was known as the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. It was established in 1916 by the Australian government as a small branch of the quarantine department. The impetus for establishing CSL was to ensure that Australia, as an isolated nation, had reliable access to life-saving biological products during times of war.
Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (10:01): Harmony Day is celebrated on Monday, 21 March and it coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Harmony Day has been celebrated in Australia since 1999, and it serves as an important reminder that we need to foster an inclusive and respectful Australia, where all Australians feel a sense of belonging and a sense of quality. This year's theme for Harmony Day is 'Our diversity is our strength'. We have worked very hard as a country to build a strong and cohesive multicultural society that is often looked upon as a model of success by other countries. We have been successful in settling people from all over the world, and in turn migrants have helped build this country. We as a community are stronger and better for it.
I did have the opportunity this week in parliament to commemorate Harmony Day and celebrate the theme of 'Our diversity is our strength'. Last night I co-hosted an interfaith dialogue commemorating Harmony Day with my parliamentary colleague and co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Multiculturalism, the member for Macmillan, Mr Russell Broadbent, in conjunction with Religions for Peace and the Canberra Interfaith Forum.
Religions for Peace is a global, community based organisation working for peace across the world and for social and religious cohesion in Australia and globally. The chair of Religions for Peace, Professor Desmond Cahill, was present to address the audience, and I would like to thank Prof Cahill for his efforts in pursuing interfaith tolerance in the Australian society. I also thank to Sue Innes from Religions for Peace for helping to coordinate the event.
The Canberra Interfaith Forum is an association of people from 12 different spiritual traditions in Canberra. The forum supports interfaith activities in Canberra and promotes multicultural harmony in the capital within a formal group setting. The chair of Canberra Interfaith Forum, Mr Dean Sahu Kahn, addressed the audience; and I want to thank Dean for his efforts in the Canberra community.
Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (19:40): In 2015 the Australian government announced the Stronger Communities Program to fund small capital works projects in local communities, matched dollar for dollar or in kind. Funding was set at $300,000 per electorate over a two-year period, with round 1 having commenced in 2015. Grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 are available under the Stronger Communities Program. In partnership with the Hume City Council and Brimbank City Council, my office formed a committee and called for expressions of interest from our local community. My community responded enthusiastically to this program and I am very pleased tonight to announce six community groups—so far—in my electorate who have been successful in the first round. I would like to congratulate these community groups and the projects for which they have received funding.
I would like to begin with the Greenvale Football Club, which received $20,000 to fund the construction and fit-out of its canteen and a new set of public toilets. The Greenvale Football Club is an Australian Rules club operating out of Greenvale Recreation Reserve, and for years it has struggled with the need for a services building, including a storage shed, a canteen, and new public toilets. Congratulations to Greenvale Football Club, especially their president, Mr Bruce Kent, for a much-needed improvement for a very great local club.
The next group I would like to congratulate is the Keilor St Bernard's Athletic Club, which received $10,097 for a high jump facility for Keilor Park. The Keilor St Bernard's Athletic Club is a long-term licensed user of the Keilor Park Athletics Track, along with Keilor Little Athletics and the numerous schools who use the track for school athletics meetings. The club wishes to upgrade the current high jump facility at Keilor Park by introducing an international standard high jump bag and associated equipment. This bag will be available to all users and will provide a safe jumping environment to all athletes—especially the advanced teenagers and senior athletes. I also very much look forward to seeing the new high jump bag in use by the young athletes who use the athletics tracks. Congratulations to the athletics club president, Mr Ian Upton, for submitting a successful grant proposal on behalf of his club.
The next group I want to congratulate is the Keilor Electric Off-Road Car Association, who received $7,000 to build their permanent pit area. The Keilor Electric Off-Road Car Association is located at Keilor Park Recreation Reserve and is a club of about 130 members. Their project will comprise the construction of a sheltered area with a roof that will provide shelter from the weather for participants who enjoy using the track. I am pleased that the association has received funding to develop the track and improve its facilities for its members. Congratulations also to the president, Mark Polistena, and to the entire association on receiving the grant.
Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (09:36): Last Friday, I attended a very special event at Penola Catholic College, a fine secondary school in my electorate which is built on the site of the former St. Joseph's baby home, a place where Saint Mary MacKillop spent some of her time as a nun in the early 1900s. Penola conducted the official blessing and opening of their newly constructed Saint Joseph the Worker Trades Skills Centre. I was very pleased to tour the new building and its facilities. The trades skills centre, fittingly named 'Saint Joseph the Worker', provides students at Penola with the opportunity to undertake vocational education and training.
The establishment of trades skills centres in high schools was, of course, a federal Labor government initiative. Federal Labor understands that it is of vital importance to invest in skilling our young people in jobs of the future. The Rudd and Gillard Labor government funded the Trade Training Centres in Schools Program, which saw a large number of schools receive funding to establish what are vital links to our secondary school education system. By establishing these centres, high schools are able to provide additional pathway options to students beyond tertiary education. The centres also run in partnership with industry and employers, giving students even greater opportunities to obtain jobs on completion of their high school studies.
Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (20:17): Since the opening of the training provider market to the private sector and the extension of student loans to the vocational sector, we have seen a massive number of registered training organisations set up shop right across the country. Currently, according to the Australian Skills Quality Authority, there are about 5,000 RTOs in Australia offering certificates I to IV, diplomas, advanced diplomas and vocational education and training courses in hairdressing, beauty services, community services, digital media, English language classes, aged care, and child care services, to name a few.
In 2014, I was asked to attend and officially open an RTO, Keystone College, which opened in Broadmeadows. My electorate has very high youth unemployment, as high a 25 percent in some suburbs, and we also have a very large number of long-term mature unemployed people on disability support looking for work, as well as many new migrants and refugees who are seeking opportunities to skill or reskill themselves in the hope of getting a job. So Keystone came offering training opportunities for people in my electorate. Instead, in less than two years of operation, they have provided nothing but stress and frustration and have now left many students with large debts and no qualifications following Keystone's decision last week to enter into voluntary administration.
My grievance, therefore, is about the manner in which my most vulnerable and disadvantaged constituents have been treated by Keystone. I begin with Ms Birsel Akbulut, who began a hunger strike on Monday, 26 January outside Keystone College protesting the ruthless recruitment tactics and subsequent unacceptable treatment and exploitation of students, who have now been left high and dry without qualifications but with significant debts. I visited Birsel during her hunger strike and it was she who first told me about the conduct of Keystone College. Birsel had initially been employed by Keystone's now defunct marketing arm, National Training and Development, to effectively spruik for students. In turn, she would be paid $300 for each student at the sign-up stage and another $300 once the student passed the census date. 'Good money,' she thought for a worthwhile service. Birsel knew many people in the local Turkish-speaking community and was happy to promote the Keystone College's training courses. She was successful in recruiting 61 local residents to undertake a community services diploma and a diploma of beauty services. Of course, many of them were not proficient in the English language. In the case of the community services diploma, Birsel was told by Keystone that English language proficiency would not be an issue as the college would provide a Turkish-speaking teacher. When she asked about the job prospects for a non-English-speaking person with a diploma in community services, she was told that English language skills would not be necessary because graduates would be working in the Turkish-speaking community. Students commenced the community services diploma, but no Turkish language teacher was provided, so the college asked Birsel to be the interpreter. She agreed, and the course began. No Turkish language teacher was ever appointed, however, and eventually, after a period, many of the students dropped out because they could not cope. But this was not before the census date kicked in, so to their horror many students were left with a debt they were not aware of. Birsel herself has never been fully paid for the work she did.