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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 3837 ..

MR STEFANIAK: If you shut up, Wayne, you might learn about it. I am coming to that. Mr Speaker, this is a great result and one wholeheartedly endorsed by the school community in a ballot of parents.

Mr Berry: No, I will not shut up, mean-spirited Bill.

MR SPEAKER: Order! You will.

MR STEFANIAK: I will say that again for those opposite. It is one wholeheartedly endorsed by the school community in a ballot of parents. I am advised that about 67 per cent of the parents who responded to the vote agreed that an amalgamation would best serve the educational interests of their children now and into the twenty-first century. Two-thirds of the parents supported this move. Without a shadow of doubt, the result was one that the community wanted. There was a very encouraging response to the ballot from parents, demonstrating a healthy interest in local education by the school communities involved.

What is more, the voting was not confined to the two schools directly involved in the merger. The parents from two feeder primary schools - Wanniassa Hills and Monash - were also invited to vote. After all, those parents also deserved a say in the future of their local high school. Mr Speaker, the parents have had their say and they have said it loud and clear. Overwhelmingly, they voted to form a single community kindergarten to Year 10 school.

At this point, it might be appropriate to quote a few lines from a joint media statement issued today by the two school boards. It is appropriate to hear exactly why those two schools wanted to merge. I quote:

This is a clear endorsement of the proposal and a recognition of the willingness of the community to embrace the existing and dynamic possibilities presented by a school of this type.

This decision is about the school communities seizing an opportunity to improve the educational outcome for our kids - it is about putting in place something new and innovative that will build on the real strengths we already have in both schools.

The school boards and the parents of students at both schools are to be congratulated on their creative and flexible thinking. The individuals involved here have been willing to think outside the square to find the best solution to the future educational needs of their children. Mr Speaker, I wish I could say the same about those opposite who have blindly ridiculed the efforts of my department to foster community debate on this issue.

There is no doubt that Canberra's population has changed fundamentally over the last 10 to 20 years. The changes expected in the next decade will be just as radical. The most recent enrolment forecasts suggest that our school-age population will fall by a massive

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