Page 787 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 6 April 2022
yesterday the minister was not able to rule this out. We, the Canberra Liberals, know that this minister must go. Mr Acting Speaker, it is not just us who know this minister must go. The Australian Education Union says:
Regrettably the situation at Calwell High School is not an isolated incident. With the union receiving staff shortage SOS calls from school staff across Canberra on a daily basis we anticipate further interventions will and must occur.
Last year, the AEU released a shocking report on the state of Canberra’s public education system. The union reported that 85 per cent of teachers believe the Education Directorate lacks the necessary resources to run the public school system, 91 per cent of teachers believe the chronic shortage of teachers is having a negative effect at their school and more than half of classroom teachers would not recommend teaching as a career. After reading the WorkSafe report on Calwell High, this comes as no surprise.
The minister will continue to blame COVID, will continue to blame the national shortages—all the usual lines—but the union have made it very clear that this is not the first time that they have raised serious concerns with this minister. These kinds of systemic issues do not happen overnight. The minister has had the education portfolio for five years—five years of incompetence, five years of failures and five years of what we now see are dangerous workplaces. This minister must be held accountable.
Sadly, this is not the first time I have raised in this chamber the serious issues of violence in our schools. In 2018, as shadow minister for education, I brought a motion highlighting the minister’s failures on student and teacher safety after a two-year-long WorkSafe investigation found teachers were subject to abuse and assaults at their schools. Back then the minister said, “No-one should expect to be injured at work and nor should they be.” Back then the leader of the Greens agreed and called these concerning. They of course knew all the right words to say to reassure teachers, to reassure students and to reassure parents that they were dealing with these issues.
Four years on and, instead of improving working conditions, our schools are worse and are at breaking point. The minister can try and blame COVID all she wants, but the serious, systemic issues of violence and unacceptable working conditions in our schools were there well before COVID, and all under the watch of this minister. This minister must go. If it was not bad enough to see overcrowding in our schools under this minister, if it was not bad enough to see crumbling classrooms and hazardous materials in our schools under this minister, if it was not bad enough to see bullying and occupational violence being a regular occurrence at our schools under this minister, if it was not bad enough to see chronic teacher shortages under this minister, if it was not bad enough to see serious issues of probity and procurement in the Education Directorate under this minister, we are now talking about students, teachers and school communities and their safety being at risk at their own school under this minister. A WorkSafe prohibition notice is an extraordinary step to be issued to a government school. And worse, this minister has not been up-front with parents and families—there was no mention of it in an explanation as to why their children are now banned from school.