Welcome to the GAP summit

| September 20, 2019

After the success of last year’s summit I suggested to our GAP Family that the ninth summit could be our last – 9 years and we were on such a high – why push our luck ?

The response was a unanimous vote for a 10th event and so we chose a topic that I am passionately interested in – education and lifelong learning.

It is not the first time that GAP has broached this subject at our annual flagship get together. In 2014, we held the GAP Summit on Education. When we were working on its programme, there was too much on each stage of education that we wanted to fit in.

Five years on, things have changed. With the broad acceptance of the term ‘lifelong learning’ and the understanding that education occurs on a continuum, we have managed to do at this summit what we have always wanted to – engage a multidisciplinary group of people in a conversation that addresses every stage of learning throughout life.

From early learning, through to tertiary and vocational studies, all the way to upskilling and reskilling in later age.

Youth transitions

Since 2010, we have held numerous taskforces related to education

Our latest work is on the issues of school to work transitions. Bridges to the Future, the report of the GAP Taskforce on Youth Transitions, has just been presented to the federal minister for education Dan Tehan in Canberra.

The Youth Transitions taskforce was developed by GAP to offer informal expert advice to the NSW Curriculum Review as well as consider broader reform proposals for the Australian Government regarding school-to-work pathways.

I am extremely proud to officially launch this report at the Summit. The document is available on our website and I encourage you all to read it and look forward to your ideas on how we can work together to implement the report’s proposals.

GAP champions education

Through our work over the years we have championed early childhood education, music education, lifelong learning, online education, tertiary reforms and many other aspects of education. Please head to our website to read about our education story and its policy impact.

This years summit is a culmination of all of this work.

Early childhood education

In our pursuit to help the most vulnerable in our community, our work in education has had a strong focus on early childhood learning. While 95% of children have access to quality early learning experiences in Australia, 5% do not.

The report produced by GAP’s Early Education Taskforce in 2016 offered the government a number of recommendations to engage these vulnerable families and their children with a significant focus on indigenous and minority groups.

The benefits of charity

From a personal perspective, my charity work has exposed me to the challenges of Australia’s most disadvantaged Indigenous communities. Toomelah and Boggabilla in northern NSW are two communities struggling to engage their kids in any kind of schooling.

Visiting the members of these communities, playing with the kids and talking with the elders moved me in ways I could never have imagined and has deepened my commitment to doing what I can to positively impact their lives. So much of their success will depend on the quality of the education they receive.

New ways to learn

Though our research we have discovered that are there are many ways to learn.

I have three children, each talented in their own way and all very different from each other.

In fact one of my kids has spent the last year in an outdoor learning environment, and while his grades in maths and english may have slipped, he has mastered a myriad of skills he would never have encountered in a classroom – from navigation to extreme weather survival skills – as well as tolerance and acceptance or others and even how to drench a cow!

More importantly, he has learnt self-efficacy and the value of persistence in the face of challenge. When you ask him how he feels about this year, he will say – he has learnt who he is.

In relation to lifelong learning, technology offers the solution to learning anywhere, any time. I do not feel much different from my 21 year old self.

Notwithstanding, when it comes to categorisation, at the ripe age of 45, according to the OECD I am apparently old – but to my advantage I am the target market for online courses – the typical student at Open Colleges is female, over 45, with children, studying a new skill online after 11pm – which is the only time they can find time to do this!

Progress in the community

GAPs work in the early learning sector drew attention to the value of building a community around education centres. Doveton College is my favourite example of this trend.

A once run-down public school in a disadvantaged suburb of Melbourne has been converted into a centre for an entire community that not only delivers education but offers wrap around support services like daycare, vocational studies and legal counsel.

Whether it is online learning, experiential learning, community engagement or any other creative way of learning,

The single most important thing we can do for Australia is to teach everyone what they need to know in the ways which suit them to deliver the best education for everyone.

Summit background

Some of you had never heard of GAP before receiving an invitation to this summit. There are also those in the room that have not only been at every GAP summit but have also been members of GAP since its inception 22 years ago.

Pulling this event together is no mean feat, and it takes a number of dedicated people to make it happen. Thank you to the steering committee for spending the last nine months advising, sharing your network, donating your time, fielding calls and pulling strings to make this Summit possible.

When we discussed what we needed to make this event a success, we agreed we needed diversity in our discussion.  And so there are young and older people, academics and civil servants, politicians and business, NGOs and NFPs in the room.

You are all represented here – a multidisciplinary group of people who are willing to open your minds to the possibility of working together on the worthiest cause.

GAP looks to the future

So this is the beginning of our journey together – the summit is where we set the agenda for the next year of GAP activity. Whatever you will come up with as a project or area of interest in the Chamber tomorrow, we will pursue and action.

Just three years ago, Andrea Boyd, the only Australian astronautical engineer at the international space station in Cologne Germany, dared to stand up in our chamber and talk about her dream of Australia having a space agency.

In response, we established the GAP space tiger team to heed Andrea’s inspiring call and as most of you know, we now have a national space agency located in South Australia.

Engaging takes courage to step out of one’s comfort zone for a while. That is why we hold our discussions under the Chatham House rule – not because we are doing anything secretive here, but because we want our views to be voiced freely, even if they may be contentious, unpopular or totally left field or blue sky.

One gets from this experience what one wants to get out of it – for some it will be networks, others will look for support in incubating or growing business ideas, others will be interested in engaging with government.

And what do I want ? I want to learn from each and every one of you and determine projects we can work on together.

This article is an edited extract of a speech delivered to guests at the opening dinner of GAP’s annual economic summit in Sydney.