Some of us are fortunate enough to ask this question. For the vast majority of the world’s population, education is neither a question of investment or cost. It is simply an unattainable luxury.
During a recent throw out I came upon the crumpled front page of the Sydney Morning Herald from 2004. There was a picture and story of young graduate doctors heading off for placements in rural NSW. Of the group pictured, most seemed to be from non-English speaking backgrounds and the article mused on this fact at length.
Of those pictured, the scant facts of a young man of Vietnamese background caught my attention. Along with his family and as a tiny child, he had fled Vietnam by boat on a journey that many before and after him had not survived. He landed in this country with his family not speaking English, a refugee. Within 12 years he was heading off to a Rural Hospital for the final part of his medical training. As the article pointed out, he would soon be a valuable resource to rural Australia.
Two things strike me as interesting here. The first is the obvious fact that this country has been built on migration, forced and by choice. The second is that our investment in those so landed and in education generally, pays dividends. We are richer both culturally and economically as a result. Migrants especially see education as the key to generational change.
The story of the young Vietnamese man is not unusual. I have over the years been privileged to present awards, certificates and other prizes. I have also met first and second-generation refugees who through outstanding commitment, have invested heavily in their own education. Their stories vary but are similar and usually feature a background of oppression, violence, hardship and escape. For them, the once unattainable luxury of education became a realisable goal in Australia.
I believe that education should never be viewed as a luxurious addition for some. It is a Public Good. The strength of our education system will inevitably determine the future of our society.
Garry John Traynor OAM
The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author