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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 12 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 3757..


MRS DUNNE (continuing):

Another issue that this government has not got its head around—and we saw it in question time yesterday—is the unique governance that exists in ACT preschools. Over the last few months, the Canberra Pre-School Society has provided the government with considerable information about the unique structure of preschools in the ACT. This is not to deny that the structure may need to change, but the issue has not been taken into consideration by this government.

Essentially, preschools in the ACT cannot be established unless there is a functioning parent organisation. The last time that the ACT established a preschool was in the case of Amaroo—very recently; 2003, I think. What happened before that preschool opened was that letters went out to the community. The letters were sent by the Canberra Pre-School Society, not by the government. They said, "We are looking to set up a preschool in your suburb. Do you want to come and find out about it? Do you want to join?"The first thing that people have to do is create a preschool society—a parent-owned, incorporated organisation. That body has to raise a certain amount of funds before the government will start a preschool.

If the government wants to change that policy, well and good; it should talk about the matter with the community and change it. But as things currently stand, every preschool established in this territory—up to and including Amaroo preschool just three years ago—is established under a unique and cooperative arrangement between the ACT government and the parents. The ACT government—and, before that, the Department of Territories and the Department of the Interior—provides the building and the teacher; the parents provide every other item in the school. The playground equipment, the carpet, the toilet paper, every pot of paint, every puzzle, every book, every sheet of paper, every computer program, every grain of sand in the sandpit—all are provided by the parent organisations.

When the parent organisation builds a sandpit, puts up a shade structure or puts up a climbing gym in the playground, the territory takes possession of that because it is a fixed asset. But, in every preschool in this territory, every grain of sand in the sandpit has been provided by parents. This minister does not understand. Yesterday in question time it was quite clear that the minister and his officials had not thought through the implications of the fact that in all of these preschools there is a huge inventory of items that are not owned by this government but are owned by individual parent organisations.

If this minister closes these preschools at the end of the year, he cannot close down the parent organisations. They may not be closed down, because they own all this property. They are all incorporated organisations and they have a responsibility to the Registrar-General to keep the organisation going until they can wind it up. At the end of this year, if this government and this minister get their way, we will see 18 preschools wanting to dispose of their inventory at once. That is an awful lot of pots of paints, puzzles, library books, rolls of toilet paper, bits of software and other things that are going to be out there for someone to acquire. It is going to be great for some communities, who will be able to pick things up quite cheaply, but there is going to be a flood of this sort of stuff on the market.


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