4 December 2014
Lynne Kosky, a senior minister in the Bracks and Brumby Victorian Labor governments, has died after a long illness. While her later ministerial career was clouded by problems in the public transport system, which she inherited on becoming transport minister (2006-2010), Lynne was a visionary education minister (2002-2006), who initiated fundamental reform of Victoria’s education system – in schools education, vocational education and training and higher education.
Lynne introduced the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (2002) as a hands-on alternative to the Victorian Certificate of Education for Year 11 and 12 students, offering practical work-related experience and learning. This was an initiative of which she was immensely – and rightly – proud.
In 2003, Lynne published the Blueprint for Government Schools, setting a far reaching reform program for public schools (and, incidentally, private schools) which culminated, during her tenure as minister, in the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (2005), a needs-based budget system for schools and a massive $1.8 billion infrastructure renewal program.
Her Maintaining the Skills Advantage policy statement in 2006 resulted in an investment of $241 million to fund a range of initiatives to encourage more young Victorians to take up and complete a trade, including a $500 ‘Trades Bonus’ to combat high first year drop out rates, improved accommodation allowances for rural apprentices and trainees and the establishment of Technical Education Centres at TAFE institutes to provide further learning pathways for young people as an alternative to schools.
Lynne initiated a review of Victoria’s eight university acts, which culminated in their complete remaking in 2010.
The legislative highlight of her career was the Education and Training Reform Act 2006. In her Second Reading Speech for the bill (9 February 2006), Lynne observed that many of the provisions of then Education Act had remained unchanged since its introduction in 1872.
As a consequence the most significant changes included in this reform Bill relate to school education where current legislation prescribes in minute and often archaic detail the operation of a government school over a century ago. …this Bill represents the aspirations and expectations of the community for an education and training system set in the 21st century in the following ways:
- it includes, for the first time in education and training legislation, a set of overarching principles that reflect the democratic values that are the essence of our society and system of government;
- it provides for a seamless education and training system in Victoria that supports high standards and provides multiple pathways and lifelong learning opportunities;
- it replaces 12 Acts with one consolidated Education and Training Reform Act; and
- it provides reforms that will support flexible and responsive service delivery across Victoria.
It also asserted the right of all Victorians, irrespective of the education and training institution they attend, where they live or their social or economic status, to have access to a quality education that maximises their potential and achievement, promotes enthusiasm,for lifelong learning and allows parents to take an active part in their child’s education.
In that speech, Lynne outlined her general “philosophy” on education:
Of all the factors that have the potential to increase an individual’s opportunities, education and training is the most enabling. It allows individuals to equip themselves to live fulfilling, productive and satisfying lives. It provides the opportunity for them to consider their place in our democratic Australian communities and to acknowledge their cultural and linguistic heritage. Not only does education provide the grounding for the development of skills and judgment, it supports people to be innovative and creative. Education and training enables individuals to contribute to Australian society by adding to our national prosperity, participating in our democratic processes and strengthening the cohesive and egalitarian nature of our communities. It is a private good that has immense public value.
The successful provision of quality education and training for all is the critical requirement of all modern democracies to enable their citizens to flourish personally and to maximise economic, social and cultural opportunity. A quality education and training system does not respond only to contemporary needs and issues; it should also identify and anticipate future needs and challenges. It is a fundamental community and social glue, while being a bridge to a more prosperous and harmonious future.
Before entering parliament, Lynne worked as a community education officer, a youth policy officer and manager of community liaison for the Melbourne Olympic bid. She was elected to the Footscray Council for four years from 1986 and, later, became mayor.
The same energy, determination and enthusiasm that Lynne brought to her public role she exhibited in her private life, which was remarkably full and wide, given her ministerial responsibilities. Lynne was devoted to her family (husband Jim Williamson and children Hanna and Jackson). She would sew her own outfits for the Victorian education and training awards and her staff (who referred to her, affectionately as La Kosky) would receive Christmas offerings from her kitchen. Lynne undertook training in dry stone walling, learned plastering and spent one summer break in Morocco learning traditional ceramic techniques in order to make handbasins for the home she and Jim were building in regional Victoria. Lynne was an enthusiastic skier and although seriously ill, travelled to Canada on a skiing holiday in February this year. She was a dedicated supporter of the now Western Bulldogs AFL club, served on its board and was for a time the No.1 Women’s Ticketholder.
Lynne has passed on to the “great beyond” but she leaves a legacy of inestimable worth through the values she sought to translate into reality in her public life and for the joy and happiness she brought to her family and many friends. What greater legacy can there be?