Release type: Speech


Address to the Hybrid Policy Forum: Transforming Education and Training Systems in Australia


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


Hi everyone and thank you for the opportunity to talk with you – my apologies for not being able to make it in person today.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands we are on today.  For me that is the Ngunnawal people, and for those of you in the room in Melbourne it is the Wurundjeri people.  I pay my respects to elders past and present, and do so on behalf of a government fully committed to the Uluru Statement, including Voice. 

One of the most rewarding parts of my work is talking to Australians who have been given a second chance through education.

They may be from disadvantaged communities where they haven’t been given the same opportunities as others or they may be migrants.

Equipped with new skills, so many of the people I talk to have found gainful employment and financial security. 

Of course, employment outcomes are important and so is the impact on social wellbeing and the ability to fully participate in society.

Adult and Community Education has played, and continues to play, an important role in Australia’s education sector.

It is a role that is understood and appreciated by many, but not by everyone.

I want to see it recognised in its rightful place alongside formal schooling, vocational education and training and university.

It is important that the Adult and Community Education sector is underpinned by a strong workforce, with practitioners that have the skills they need to support learners to thrive.

Our investment in Australia’s highly skilled workforce will be critical to driving inclusive economic growth.

A significant feature of adult learning is the importance of gender equality.

As we heard from Founder of the Equality Institute, Dr Emma Fulu, at last year’s Jobs and Skills Summit, women “are not a problem to be solved but rather the greatest untapped resource in Australia's economy”.

I couldn’t agree more.

We must give women every opportunity to take part in the labour market and to break down the gendered norms that currently exist.

We must strive for a labour market where women can freely choose careers in construction or mining, and men can choose to work in places that provide care.

That’s why we’re engaging widely about the Australian Skills Guarantee, with targets to ensure more women benefit from Government-funded projects.

More broadly, our reforms to early education and care will allow families to have more affordable access to quality services that enable them to work and their children to learn.

The Albanese Government intends on building education and training sectors that delivers a skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

Core foundation skills, like literacy, numeracy and digital literacy are crucial to ensure access to employment, education and training and lifelong learning.

We have committed to a redesign of the foundation skills system in Australia.

We have established a Foundation Skills Advisory Group - including Jenny Macaffer, Jack Beetson, and Jenny Dodd who are all on your agenda today. 

The Advisory Group is helping guide these reforms, bringing together important perspectives from industry, unions, and the education sector.

This government has also commissioned a $12 million National Study on adult literacy, numeracy and digital literacy, to be managed by Jobs and Skills Australia.

This study will provide an up-to-date assessment of the current skill levels of adults across Australia, including how best to support the skills of First Nations’ People.

It’s a busy year and we have a lot more work to do.

Thank you for your hard work.

You are making a difference to the lives of Australians every day. 

I hope today’s discussions will help all Australians have access to quality skills and training that will set themselves up for life.

Thank you and enjoy your day.