Hon Julia Gillard
Jessie Street Trust
Sydney
17 April 2015

It is my great honour to be here today to address you, and to celebrate with you the legacy of Jessie Street and the work that continues to be done in her name.

Jessie was a values-driven campaigner: for equality for women, for peace and nuclear disarmament, for the better and fair treatment of Australia’s first people. Jessie was university graduate, a candidate for three elections and an activist here and abroad. She was a trail blazer.

Yet up until the late eighties, she was relatively unknown in Australia.

Thanks to the work first, of the organising committee and since, the Trust, her legacy is now celebrated and her name employed to champion a new generation of activists.
For Jessie, we see recognition of her legacy in the decisions of local and federal government authorities to dedicate parks, gardens and buildings in her name.

But most importantly, we see her legacy live on through the organisations that this lunch supports each year. These organisations are taking up the mantle of pursuing the causes that were so important to Jessie, and all have been worthy recipients of your support.
How wonderful that we celebrate this woman. How wonderful that so many of you have turned out today to join me in doing so.

For me as Prime Minister, central to my sense of purpose was ensuring every child received a high quality education and the best start in life. Now I am pursuing that purpose globally. A little over a year ago, I was approached to become Chair of the Global Partnership for Education –an initiative that brings together donor governments, private philanthropy, civil society, the private sector and the world’s poorest countries to ensure that children in those countries have access to quality education. Our immediate mission is to fulfil the Millennium Development Goal agreed to by the United Nations in 2000 that there would be universal access to primary school.

Since 2002, the Global Partnership has allocated $US 4.3 billion to developing country partners and programs. And since 2009 we have become the largest international funder of education in countries affected by conflict. We work in sixty nations around the world from sub-Saharan Africa to the South Pacific from Cameroon to Cambodia.

Our unique partnership model that has been praised by the United Nations as the development model of the future. No one from the Global Partnership for Education rolls out of Washington into a developing country and says I have the plan for your children. Obviously that wouldn’t work. The essence of education is it is a locally delivered service that needs community support to work.

Instead, our approach is to do the patient work necessary to plan and create whole school systems. We know in our own nation that for schools to work well you need comprehensive planning. We don’t build schools without knowing how we are going to staff them; we don’t send teachers and children in to classrooms without books and other learning materials. We don’t say to a teacher ‘do your best’ without providing the curriculum they need, resources for assessment, professional development and the list goes on.

But too often in developing countries, efforts by government and donors are not joined up. Instead of planning you find fragmentation. The school without any trained staff, the laptop with electricity.

The Global Partnership works in country with all players – government, teachers, donors, civil society – to develop a plan that will work. In the poorest nations we then help fund the plan.

We have seen remarkable improvements – in countries like Yemen our work has seen more girls getting to school. In Liberia, we are helping with the re-opening of schools after Ebola. In times of complete crisis and breakdown we can mobilise money in less than eight weeks.

At our pledging conference last June, we raised $2.1 billion from donors. And this in turn was used to leverage developing countries to increase their education budgets by a collective US$26 billion.

It’s a lot of money – but it’s not enough money.

For all the efforts over the last 15 years:
It is still the fact that today we have 58 million children who do not go to school.
We have 250 million who attend school but are not learning – and this is just at the primary school level.

We need to do more. We need to see children – girls and boys emerge from secondary schooling with empowerment and capabilities that come from a quality education. And we need to do more for children who are ravaged by conflict – especially in the Middle East and Africa.
28.5 million children worldwide are out of school because they are not only poor but they live in conflict-affected nations, fragile nations, situations of emergency – or more than one of these. Of course, the group assembled here intuitively understands that every problem that keeps children out of school weighs more heavily for girls. The statistics evidence this tragedy. The child most likely to be out of school is a rural girl in a poor and fragile nation. Indeed at current rates of progress, we will not see girls like this fully included in education until near the end of this century.

Yet if you educate a girl – you can change a country. Women with higher levels of education are less likely to get married early or have children at an early age. We know, too, as women’s education levels rise fertility rates decline. As women climb the education ladder, preventable child deaths drop dramatically.

Put simply, an educated girl will be empowered to make more choices in her own life and contribute more to the stability and development of her nation.

So because we are committed to the equal rights of girls, because we want to see peace and prosperity, the global partnership for education works to educate girls.

In Timor Leste, GPE grants are used to support conditional cash transfers to girls. Niger’s program provides incentives for girls to study science and to stay in school. In Afghanistan GPE funds are used to support the recruitment of more female teachers. Terrorists understand the transformational power of educating girls. That’s why Malala was shot. That’s why Boko Haram kidnaps school girls in Nigeria. They have been held for a year. We must bring them home.

Education is a direct threat to their extremism.

Girls’ education is so close to my heart that I am focussing on it both within and beyond GPE. Since September last year, I have had the privilege of with Hillary Clinton on girls’ education. I did so in my capacity as a Distinguished Fellow at the Brookings think tank in Washington. There I get to work with a wonderful team, predominantly women, to do the thinking and organising work necessary to have an impact for education.

Together with Hillary, I launched Girls CHARGE, a new campaign, under the Clinton Global Initiative, that harnesses the power of private sector capital and on-the-ground program to expand opportunities for girls and their schooling. More than 60 companies and foundations have supported Girls CHARGE committing over $800 million to improve the lives of more than 20 million girls over the next 5 years.

Economists are fond of the saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Let me amend that saying to there is no such thing as a free lunch time speaker. I am here to set you homework.

2015 is a pivotal year for education and you can help. In September, in New York, at the United Nations, the leaders of the world will come together to agree and set out the goals for education of our poorest and neediest children over the next fifteen years.

If the ambitious words are to have meaning, we need to have the funds committed to do the job. The sad fact is that we are billions of dollars short – $22 billion short every year – to achieve the basic objective of ensuring access to quality education for every child. Our world is very difficult, with immense challenges. But I know that there is no solution to the problems we face that does not embrace education. So it’s time to make a lot of noise, locally and globally. Leaders will have failed the world’s children unless out of the forthcoming World Education Forum in Korea, the Oslo Summit on education, the Addis Ababa meeting on financing sustainable development and UN Leaders’ Week, we see new, tangible commitments to financing education for all.

GPE is standing ready to do more. We do not lack ambition or capability, we lack financing.
So please get busy and support GPE’s campaign and the campaign work of my friends Gordon and Sarah Brown. There are plenty of ways to get involved right now and more will come as the campaign builds.

I also ask those of you with financial resources to consider making a personal contribution to Girls CHARGE by donating to CAMFED, the Campaign for Female Education. Funded by a wonderful British woman, Ann Cotton, and now lead by an equally incredible woman, Lucy Lake, CAMFED mobilises communities in Africa to support girls education, financially supports those girls, assists their transition to work or further education, and then has its alumni give back by mentoring the next generation. It is a model that started small but is growing. It is robust and scalable. CAMFED could do more if they had more. I urge you to help. It is my hope today that the women of Jessie Street Trust can embrace the homework I have somewhat cheekily set for you.

This is a year of decision for global education and now is exactly the right time to encourage our world to do more for its poorest children. I am sure Jessie would smile approvingly at our efforts to help these children, including the millions of girls. Our actions in doing so would honour her legacy.

For more information:
(1) You can learn more about Julia’s work with the Global Partnership for Education here.
GPE is an initiative that brings together donor governments, private philanthropy, civil society, the private sector and the world’s poorest countries to ensure that children in those countries have access to quality education.

(2) Click the link to learn more about CAMFED – the Campaign for Female Education

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