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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (7 June) . . Page.. 1825..

MR BARR (continuing):

education system in the territory with the objective of delivering a public education system with the best educational outcomes for students.

In yesterday's budget, the government announced the most significant capital injection in public education the territory has seen since self-government. There is $90 million for capital upgrades, $67 million for the construction of two new schools, and money for a feasibility study for a third that would look into the prospects of collocating a CIT campus with a college in Gungahlin. There is also $20 million over four years for investment in information technology.

Towards 2020: renewing our schools is a commitment to provide children and young people in the ACT with a vibrant, responsive and world-class public education system, a system that is second to none, one that celebrates and values diversity, strives to achieve excellence and is accessible to all. This announcement will make immediate and far-reaching improvements to our schools and will secure a sustainable education system into the future.

As part of this renewal program, a number of school closures and amalgamations have been proposed. This would come as no surprise to the community. The government has already committed to the revitalisation of public education in West Belconnen through the creation of a state-of-the-art facility and the closing of ageing infrastructure. This commitment was fully funded in yesterday's budget. However, more needs to be done across all areas of Canberra, and the government has proposed a way forward.

I flagged in my inaugural speech in this place and in subsequent speeches that there is a need for school closures and that proposals would be forthcoming. I have also highlighted my commitment to open and transparent community consultation. This government is committed to consulting with the community in a meaningful manner, but to do this you need to put together the "what"as well as the "how"of community consultation prior to making the decision, and that is what I am proposing today.

The "what"was released as part of the budget: eight regional proposals for renewing our schools. The "how"is described in the changes in this bill. As I said in my tabling speech yesterday, these changes will require the minister, before a decision is made about a proposal to close or amalgamate government schools, to tell school communities about the proposal and to listen to and consider their views.

The bill then goes on to describe the principles that must underlie the consultation process. These can be summarised as a focus on access to and provision of quality educational opportunities, openness and transparency, effective community engagement leading to sustainable decisions, provision of relevant information in a timely and accessible way, opportunities for feedback, and seeking the views of school boards likely to be affected by the proposals.

The government will engage with local communities to examine the educational, social and financial outcomes when deciding to proceed on any program, just as we engaged with the community about the West Belconnen changes. The government went to the community with a well-developed proposal that we believed would meet the educational needs of the West Belconnen area now and into the future. This stands in marked contrast to when the Liberal Party closed Charnwood high in the 1990s.

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