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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 13 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 4003..


DR FOSKEY (continuing):

community's anger and hurt on this matter and to the fact that people were betrayed—because they voted for a government that said it would not close schools.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Minister for Industrial Relations) (5.34): Just to reiterate the position that I put earlier—the government's position—in relation to Mrs Dunne's amendment, let me say that we will not be supporting it.

In his earlier comments, Mr Seselja quoted from comments from the previous education minister, which I understand were dated 12 or 14 August. I again draw to the attention of members the comments made by Ms Gallagher when she was asked a question by a former member of this place, Ms Dundas, on 26 August 2004—so a good two weeks after that. The question was in relation to school closures. Ms Gallagher said:

I think future legislative assemblies, governments and ministers will have to seriously look at the matter and have a conversation with the community ... The Education Act sets out a very firm and rigorous process for that, if it were to occur, and how it could occur ...

In accordance with the Education Act, I then undertook a six-month community consultation process, a process that involved more than 750 meetings. I visited more than 100 schools, having multiple discussions with a range of school communities around the way forward for education in the ACT.

I go back to the very well-expressed comments of the late Rosemary Richards in relation to the substantive policy issue. I quote again from her article:

Educators, keenly aware of the needs of schools, are concerned about how the ACT community will fund these essential resources needed for young people. We know that many private schools have large populations with excellent resources. To ensure a viable public school system, we must all work to ensure that government schools can provide the same quality uniformly across Canberra; this may mean making difficult decisions about some "sacred cows"in some parts of Canberra because the current plethora of small schools challenges the future equitable provision of the best resources for our children.

I congratulate the Government for finding the money to support the community and for taking this difficult but courageous road.

Rosemary Richards committed 30 years of her life to the ACT education system. She was a principal at a number of schools. She started her teaching career at Rivett primary school, I understand. She is someone who, whilst she was stricken with illness, had the courage to make this contribution, a very sensible contribution. She is someone for whom the AEU nationally has put forward an award and a prize for young teachers. She is someone who understood the issues that this education system faced and was prepared to come forward and make a serious contribution to the challenges that we face. This article and what she had to say were spot on.

Yes, it was incredibly difficult. Of course it was. And no-one on this side of the chamber took any joy from having to close schools. But it was essential to ensure the


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