Page 168 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 10 December 2008

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months when there is some independent arbitration in place to make a judgement on what is in the public interest to disclose, the Greens will support action to have the bulk of this notorious functional review released.

Another element that appeared quite unfair was the perfidy of what appears to have been a sham consultation process where the core group in a school community were surprised to discover that their seemingly successful and vibrant school was at risk of being shut down, was offered the opportunity to demonstrate its ongoing viability on some level or another and then either executed or reprieved at the end of the year.

Of course, some of those schools were really bargaining chips or pawns in a greater game. Dickson College springs to mind. It would have been stupid on all fronts, educational and political most obviously, to close Dickson College but the threat to Dickson provided a distraction and the relief of having that school saved probably softened the blow of the loss of some of the others. And the work that so many of those core school community groups put in to demonstrate both the important role they played in the communities and the way they could expand on that role into the future was heart wrenching, because it seemed so much of that very strong, creative, community-building, visionary work was pointless.

The issue of whether those schools should and could be reopened is not the point of this bill. One of the outcomes of experiences such as that and of the closure of schools after this battle on seemingly random grounds, for some, was undoubtedly traumatic. People involved want to fix up the process for others. People want the lesson to be learned from their unhappy and unjust experiences. They want subsequent school communities to feel as if they have been treated with more respect if and when the issue of school closures comes around again. For some of them, that is the best outcome now that we can deliver.

We are also of the view that the way to develop a good process in an area as complex as this is to run a process that allows for all relevant stakeholders, particularly those who are most aware of the consequences of the core process, to get involved. Our plan then is to refer this bill to the education committee in the next sitting period, once the committee is up and running. Those community groups, the ACT education department and experts in education and community development can all contribute to a fairly open process. Of course, we are also determined to put something concrete on the table as a starting point, because it is much easier to finetune or even reshape a concrete proposal than it is to just go fishing for change.

While in the first instance we were happy to consider some simple, broad-brush amendments as a starting point, it became clear that a lot of pertinent thinking had already been done. So, in finalising this bill, the Greens sought some guidance from some school and community groups.

Specifically, this bill does a number of things. It begins by requiring government to raise the issue of closure and amalgamation with the school community before any decision is made and to work with the relevant school community on other strategies to address any problems or perceived problems with the school’s enrolments or performance. This is a key, proactive step which the ACT government was either too scared to do in the lead-up to 2006 or was too driven with its own secret goals to be

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