Paddington Public School Education Week

(9am, Paddington Uniting Church)

Thank you and good morning everyone. Welcome to students of Paddington Public School to this celebration of Education Week for 2015.

I'd also like to acknowledge the Principal, Mrs Warhurst, all your teachers and of course your parents.

I don't suppose there's a school child post or present anywhere who doesn't think, at some point, that school is a drag and that it would be better to be doing something that was much more fun!

But education is in fact one of the greatest opportunities we have in our country.

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was shot by the Taliban in Pakistan because she insisted on her right to an education. Now, through her foundation, she is funding a school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Of almost half a million school-age refugees there, only about 100,000 are getting any sort of education. She calls education "the real weapon for change" and has urged world leaders to fully fund primary and secondary education all around the world.

"If the whole world stopped spending money on the military for just eight days," she said, "we could have the $39 billion still needed to provide 12 years of free, quality education to every child on the planet."

We need to remind ourselves of how fortunate we are to have access to free quality education in this country.

It can lead to a rewarding and fulfilling life and it is also the foundation of a strong city and a strong economy.

Australia's reputation for quality education combined with its safe, multicultural society makes us a natural choice for students, particularly those from Asia and India.

Only last year, Sydney was named as the world's most popular city for international students, with over 100,000 international students studying here. In the City of Sydney alone, this generates $1.6 billion in local economic activity.

Of course, these students are mostly at university level, but strong universities need strong primary and secondary schools if we are to build the knowledge economy for the 21st century - your century!

This is an exciting era of change - the digital revolution will be as dramatic and far-reaching in its effects as the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century was in that era.

Schools are readying themselves to prepare their students for these changes, and hopefully to equip them with the skills for life-long learning, to make them resilient and adaptable, as well as creative and innovative.

This year the focus for Education Week is on "Our Local Heroes". Australia, and Sydney, have plenty of such heroes to celebrate, people who have come through our public education system and made their mark in the world.

They range from people like our much-loved former Governor, Professor Marie Bashir, to great sportsmen like Adam Goodes, to politicians like Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who changed a nation.

Public education will give you all the opportunity to use your talent, make a contribution in your own way, have an interesting life and have fun as well! I hope you will all make the most of this time.