Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (7 June) . . Page.. 1852..
DR FOSKEY (continuing):
not when you tell communities right away that they are going to lose their school. You have already lost them if you do that.
There are other issues, like the travel that is involved. Take the students at Hall or Tharwa, if they lose their school. I come from a community, down in the bush admittedly, where, if there were 20 students in the school, that was considered a big number; it enabled them to have one teacher and an assistant. I must say my older children came out of that school with a very good education. It is not about the numbers. I am sure that Tharwa is a community that deserves a school. It may not have hundreds of students in it, but it may still do the job. What an educational resource that whole area is. How difficult will it be to get children to school if that school closes?
There are the issues about people's stressful lives already in the morning-bad tempers, getting the kids ready for school. You have got to add another 15 or 20 minutes to that trip. I am very sorry that Mr Barr is going to have to read my speech in Hansard, because that will restrict his ability to respond to it. It is adding 15 or 20 minutes in the morning to the family's time. Are parents going to have to change their work arrangements so that they can pick up kids after school? I have already been told about that being a possibility. This is how broad the consultation has to be. We are talking about family life here; we are talking about making Canberra a great place for people to come to and live. These are the very things that do that. So that is why I am more inclined to support Mrs Dunne's legislation.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra-Leader of the Opposition) (3.46): In rising to support Mrs Dunne's legislation, I make the observation that it is very important not to put the cart before the horse and to consult, not after the event but before the event. Mrs Dunne is obviously proposing consultation before deciding to close a government school or amalgamate government schools. It has a couple of things the minister must do. The consultation period has to be at least six months.
She also proposes a disallowable instrument, an education and community consultation determination. The disallowable instrument is a consultation guideline which was put in in about 2000 by the previous government and its minister. This was used very successfully. I must say it took about 12 months for the amalgamation of the campuses at Melba-the then Melba primary and Spence primary. Spence ultimately decided to merge into Melba. That was a 12-month consultation. That probably was a textbook way of how to do it. There were literally six parents in the school, out of about 300 families, who did not want to see that go ahead. I recall the current government, the then opposition, were still very sceptical about that. They tended to oppose everything we tried to do to rationalise schools. This particular document was used very effectively there.
It was also used when Duffy and Rivett looked like amalgamating into one campus as a school, but the proposed amalgamation broke down. Something went wrong along the way in the use of this document, and the decision was to not proceed further. This basically is a fairly well-tried and proven way of ensuring a very detailed but effective consultation process for ACT school communities.
School communities certainly are reeling after the government's announcement yesterday of what is intended for them. Far from looking at schools and perhaps