Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (15:08): My question is to the Minister for Education. What action is the Albanese Labor government taking to alleviate the teacher shortage and ensure that we have more teachers where they should be, teaching our kids?
Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (15:08): I thank the member for Calwell for her question. The first thing I did when I got this job was go back to my old primary school and give my former teacher Mrs Fry a hug. It just seemed like the right place to start. Honourable members interjecting—
Mr CLARE: Cathy Fry started at Cabramatta Public School in 1978, and she's still there, changing lives. And, although I see a lot of smiles across the chamber, we can all think of someone like that, can't we—somebody who shaped us, someone who changed us, someone who inspired us? There aren't many jobs in this country more important than being a teacher, and we need more of them. We've got a shortage of teachers right across the country at the moment, and it's not just because of COVID; it's not just because of the flu; it's more than that. There are more kids going to school now than ever before, and that's a great thing, but there are fewer people going on to university to study teaching. We have seen a drop of about 16 per cent in the course of the last 10 years. We need to turn that around. That's why we've committed to providing bursaries worth up to $40,000 to encourage the best and brightest to become teachers. That's why we are expanding the high achiever teachers program, to encourage mid-career professionals to switch to the classroom. It is also why we're prioritising visas for overseas teachers to come and work here. Can I thank the Minister for Home Affairs, who initiated that. We have to do more than that because it is not just a shortage of people signing up to be teachers. More and more teachers are leaving the profession early, either because they feel burnt out, worn out, or for other reasons. If we are serious about fixing this, it requires the federal government and state and territory governments to work together. That's why next week when education ministers meet here in Canberra, we will focus on looking at ways that we can encourage more people to become teachers, how we can improve initial teacher education and how we can tackle some of those reasons that are causing teachers to leave the profession early. We won't do that on our own. I'm also inviting teachers, principals and other education experts to join us, to pick their brains, to get their ideas, to listen to them. This is important work. Education is the most powerful cause for good in this country. It changes lives, just like Cathy Fry has been changing lives for more than 40 years, and we want more Australians to help us do that.