Release type: Speech


Address to the Community Colleges Australia Conference


The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training


I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal Peoples of the Eora Nation as the Traditional Owners of Country where you are meeting today for your conference.

It is with great pleasure that I am able to contribute to the Community Colleges Australia Annual Conference.

Community Colleges Australia play an important role in our training sector through the provision of formal and non-formal training programs in the community.

As the national representative of not-for-profit adult and community education trainer providers, the value you provide for Australians wanting to build a better life for themselves and their families is vital.

The theme of this year’s conference – Rebuilding Community – is a vision that resonates strongly with me and the Albanese Labor Government.  

We understand the importance of engaging vulnerable and disadvantaged learners – ensuring they have the right support in order to be provided a level playing field to learn and earn.

Adult and Community Education is an important pillar of our education sector, taking its place alongside formal schooling, vocational education and university.

Strengthening our not-for-profit community education sector will deliver a better future for Australians.

Investment in a highly skilled workforce is critical to driving sustainable, inclusive economic growth.

Foundation Skills are crucial to ensuring that Australians have the skills they need for the jobs on offer.

Increasing a person’s literacy level can also have a direct and positive impact on their future financial and social wellbeing.

Higher literacy and numeracy skills are associated with better employment outcomes and an increase in wages for both men and women.

Yet the rate at which Australians are accessing foundation skills training has been falling.

Providing stronger support for Foundation Skills and ensuring access for all Australians is a top priority for my Government.

Foundation skills do what the name implies.  They lay the foundation for people to fully participate in their community.  Without solid foundations people’s lives can lack stability and security.
We know for many people, it’s a lack of foundation skills – language, literacy, numeracy, digital literacy – that impairs their ability to succeed in study and participate in the labour market.

There are many reason why foundation skills are lacking and we therefore need to reinvigorate our efforts to support workers and vulnerable Australians to gain secure employment.

To find ways in which we can better work with adult learners, vocational education providers and employers I have committed to a comprehensive review of our foundation skills programs.

This will be done through an advisory body I am establishing.

To allow time for this work to occur I have also extended the current Skills for Education and Employment program contracts by a year, to 30 June 2024.

I want to assure you, the Albanese Government is committed to ensuring all Australians have the skills they need to thrive and gain employment.

Congratulations on the work you are doing, and I hope the conference is both fruitful and engaging.