03 July 2009
Speech at the signing of
the National Partnership Agreement
for the East Kimberley Development Package
Kununurra District High School

Teachers, can I just at the very outset salute the work that you do in these communities, it’s appreciated by the nation. To you the mums and dads who support school communities like this as well and to you the Australians of today and the Australians of tomorrow, boys and girls, students here at these great schools.

You may have seen the Premier and I arrive by helicopter. It’s one of those great privileges that you have as Prime Minister of Australia, an opportunity to look at some of the great achievements that have been made in the past in our country. And as Prime Minister to think about how we can build on those achievements for the future. And that’s what we’ve been doing this morning.
This morning I saw firsthand the spectacular majesty of the landscape of the Kimberleys. This is truly a unique part of God’s creation. It inspires the soul. It is truly, truly a part of our Australian national soul. And as I travelled up The Ord to the dam I also reflected upon the equal antiquity of the Aboriginal people who have been custodians of these lands since the Dreamtime and how honoured we are to share these lands with them.

I also saw firsthand the achievements of those who have gone before us, those who had the imagination, the courage, the fortitude to say we can take this part of the land and turn it into a great, great agricultural development for the future. And going back many years to previous Premiers and previous Prime Ministers of all sides of politics, back to the 40s, through the 50s, into the 60s and the construction of the dam in 1972, what has happened with Ord River Stage One and what will now happen with Ord River Stage Two, you have here us building on the achievements of those who have gone before us.

It was for me an inspiring morning. Seeing the landscape, reflecting on the antiquity of our Indigenous Australians and reflecting also on the great achievements of those who have built this district into what it has become; a major food basket for the country.

As the Premier indicated before we are here today to sign a historic agreement. The Australian Government’s vision for the East Kimberley is to help build strong and sustainable communities. It’s about providing the social infrastructure that underpins vibrant community life, it’s about a partnership between governments and the local community. It’s about a partnership with Indigenous communities as we work to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in health, in education, in employment and in life opportunities.

In this respect, I note that the Ord project, and the investments that come with it, have only been possible because of the consent of the Miriuwung and Gajerrong traditional owners. And I thank them for that. I would like to acknowledge here former Minister Eric Ripper and the traditional owners for the extensive work they have done.

I now turn to the specific details of the East Kimberley Development package that we are announcing today.

Firstly in the area of health, the Australian Government will invest $50 million in health services in the region. This includes $20 million for the expansion of the Kununurra Hospital, which serves the whole region. $3.4 million for the Wyndham health facilities, $7 million for remote clinics and aged care facilities and $4 million for short stay patient accommodation.

We will also commit to $6.8 million for environmental health measures – including improvements to dust control, incinerators and the fencing of sewerage ponds and rubbish tips. This is in addition to the 8.6 million of funding announced in the Commonwealth Budget for renal dialysis services in the Kimberley as well.

Each of these health measures I have announced today will complement the National Partnership on Indigenous Health, a $1.6 billion investment over four years, that commenced this week. And that aims to reduce the biggest risk factors for disease, to improve chronic disease management and to expand the capacity of the health workforce.

Education. The quality of education training is of fundamental importance to this region’s future. If we are to retain families and retain the young people in this region, they must have quality educational opportunities from pre-school right through to Year 12 and to TAFE. And I know this is a priority for this community. And that is why the Australian Government will now be investing $64 million in education and training in the East Kimberley.

This will include $25 million for a new primary school in Kununurra, $15 million for the Kununurra District High School where we stand today, $5 million for the Kununurra School Community Library and $10 million for trades training and classrooms at the Kimberley TAFE.

We are also providing funding for teacher training and for early learning centres in Wyndham, Warmun and Mandangala.

The measures I have announced here will complement the work by the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, that she’s now undertaking for a Kimberley-wide regional education strategy in partnership with the State Government. That strategy will address the need for improved early childhood education, better outcomes as well as helping particularly the needs of our local Indigenous people.

Housing. We need improved housing, also essential for the region’s future. Affordable housing is a challenge for the whole East Kimberley region, especially in attracting and retaining workers in hospitals and schools. Housing problems are especially acute in Indigenous communities in this region, where there’s an average of 6.3 residents in each house. This compares to 3.9 residents per house in Indigenous communities overall across the State.

That’s why the Government is committed to taking action with a $50 million investment in social and transitional housing in the region. In addition, we will invest a further $5 million in the region specifically to provide housing for health service providers.

In transport, the Development Package we announce today also embraces an investment of more than $15 million in transport infrastructure, including $10 million investment in the Wyndham Port, to expand future trade opportunities.

And finally community facilities; the Government will also invest in community facilities that contribute to stronger community life. $3 million for the hostel oval in Kununurra, $950,000 for the Wyndham pool and funding for a community jetty, also at Wyndham.

Ladies and gentlemen boys and girls, these are the details of what we’re about to agree to with the state government of Western Australia here today. These are our investments long term for your community. It’s health facilities, it’s education facilities, it’s training facilities. The things that are important for community life as well as housing, as well as transport.

The State Government and the Australian Government have worked very closely on this project together. The State Government is also investing a comparable amount of money. Altogether we are investing together some $400 million in order to make Ord Stage Two possible, not just as an economic development but also underpinning the social investments which are necessary to make it all work. I believe our two governments have worked well together on this and I think we have also worked speedily.

I first came here six months ago and I sat down with the Premier then and we started nutting through the detail. And since then on my part, Gary Gray the Parliamentary Secretary for Western and Northern Australia and on his part Brendon Grylls the Minister for Regional Development sat down and resolved the detail. And after six months you know something? Having worked in Government for a little while, that’s not bad and what we’re starting today, the finality of that agreement.

One of the challenges that lies with you as the community is to make it work. We as governments are putting our best step forward in order to ensure that we have a strong economy here for the future and the best investments possible in our schools and in our hospitals. But we need you the community to also take ownership of this with us.

I think in this part, this wonderful part of Australia, we have an enormous opportunity to demonstrate the Australia of which we sang just before in our National Anthem. Its opening line is ‘Australians all let us rejoice’, ‘Australians all let us rejoice’. This provides further and great and new opportunities for all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, in this wonderful part of Australia to carve out a new future. There will be problems, there will be challenges, there will be difficulties, I understand that, no-one waves magic wands. But can I say with Government in partnership with the community and with you the community in partnership with us, I believe we can make a real difference for the future.

To conclude where the Premier concluded, to each of the young people out here today from the littlies to the biggies. Those of you who are thinking about what you might do in the future, look back on this day in 25, in 50 years time and reflect on the fact that you were here for this important new turning point for this region’s future. For your district’s future.

This wonderful community which you share now will become bigger, greater and even better in the years ahead. Many of you will shape its future as you grow up and choose careers in this part of Australia. So look back in a few years time, in five years time, in 10 years time that you were here at this important milestone because I think it is a milestone of which you’ll all be proud.

To teachers, to parents and to those who sustain community life here can I also say this. You are the lifeblood that makes all this work, you actually make communities tick, you actually are the fabric which holds it all together, the glue during the hard times, the difficult times. The economy might be down and markets are bad but you make it work. And to each of you who have committed yourselves to making this a truly great Australian community for the future, I commend you.

So let’s celebrate together this new milestone for the future, one of partnership between the Australian Government, the State Government of Western Australia and this great community in the East Kimberley. I thank you.