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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (25 October) . . Page.. 1994..


MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

part of a government that claimed to be concerned about the plight of people in those schools. It was all of those things. Now they are blaming the present Government because it is prepared to take an active role in managing the issue of declining enrolments that all schools have to face up to at some point in their lives.

Ms Horodny, I have to say, was extremely unfair in her comments. She attacked the position of the Government. She said that what the problem with Charnwood High School was all about was a lack of long-term planning, but she was prepared to blame a government which has been in office for just seven months for that lack of long-term planning. There was no mention of the Opposition in your remarks, Ms Horodny. It was all about the Government's problems; the Government's targeting of the school; the Government was to blame.

The problems of Charnwood High School did not arrive on 9 March 1995. Enrolments declined from 681 in 1991 to 275 this year. They probably will be about 200 next year, if we are lucky. That was not a process happening under this Government. It was a process substantially in train under the former Government. What processes did they put in place not just to supplement but to manage this process? They did absolutely nothing about that process. They were prepared to let Charnwood High School go down the path of Griffith Primary School one day, which was simply to see it bleed to death. That, Mr Speaker, I condemn. That, I think, is simply totally callous and reprehensible.

Mr Speaker, members of this place would know, or they should know, and they should be telling the community, that there has been a significant challenge facing governments because of the long-term change in enrolment patterns in this Territory. Increases in the school-age population in new suburbs obviously make it imperative that we, as governments, attempt to make sure that in new areas of the ACT, where there is a very strong growing population and the population is generally of school age, or a very large part of it is of school age, there are schools to cater for those students. There was an interesting article in the Canberra Times on 14 October which talked about some of these issues and looked at the changes that have been taking place in the last decade in the ACT public school system. It highlighted the implications in terms of the provision of new school facilities in the ACT in the context of that growth and that decline. It pointed out the shifting nature of the student population in the Territory.

Mr Speaker, let me give you some statistics to put this debate in some sort of context. In the period between 1983 and the year 2001 it is calculated that 18 primary schools and 18 preschools will have opened in the Australian Capital Territory, as well as four high schools and two secondary colleges, many of them in newly established areas such as Tuggeranong and Gungahlin. (Extension of time granted) I thank members. That will be a total of 42 new educational facilities in a period of just under 20 years. Forty-two new educational institutions in the ACT come at a very high cost to ACT taxpayers. But, during the period from 1983 to 1995, eight primary schools and nine preschools have closed, together with three high schools. That is a total of 20 educational facilities. Overall, the picture basically is that by the year 2000 there will be an additional 10 primary schools, nine new preschools, one new high school and two new secondary colleges in the Territory. That is the net position after the closures and the openings are taken into account.


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