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Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Money for Aboriginal education

Australia's Aborigines are disadvantaged
The Australian Government has announced a nationwide plan to help tackle a growing crisis in the education of Aboriginal children.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, says the government will spend $27m (Aus) over the next four years to help Aboriginal children reach basic standards of literacy.

An independent study last year found at least a third of Australia's Aboriginal children could not read or write or cope with simple addition and subtraction.

The study described its findings as "an alarming social crisis".

Improving standards

Mr Howard said the new education programme was a key part of his plan to raise the generally poor living standards of Aborigines and remove some of the disadvantages they face.

"Addressing disadvantage in education is a key step towards real reconciliation and improving the status and standard of living of indigenous Australians," Mr Howard said in a statement.


Prime Minister John Howard
PM John Howard: step towards reconciliation
Australia's 400,000 Aborigines are the country's most disadvantaged group, with much higher infant mortality and much lower life expectancy than among the rest of the country's 19 million people.

Evelyn Scott, the chairwoman for the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, welcomed the initiative, saying a good education was a "necessary foundation".

But a senior member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Des Williams, while welcoming the extra spending, said it was simply not enough to fix the Aborigines' problems.

Investment

Part of the money will be used to train teachers to recognise health problems in Aboriginal children that could be affecting performance.

Many young Aborigines are partially deaf, a condition blamed on poor nutrition or untreated ear infections.

Another part of the programme will try to persuade Aboriginal parents to encourage their children to attend school.

Last week a United Nations committe criticised the Howard government over its treatment of Aborigines.

But the government dismissed the report by the Committe for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as one-sided.

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See also:

25 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Australia rejects UN racism report
21 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Annan skirts human rights debate
13 Mar 99 | Asia-Pacific
Australia defends 'racist' land law
04 Aug 99 | Asia-Pacific
High level of trauma among Aborigines
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