Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 29 March 2017) . . Page.. 1199 ..
floor between me and Ms Berry. In a disorderly interjection I did mention to Ms Cheyne, “What about ESL in non-government schools?” The interjection was of course pointed towards Ms Cheyne but Ms Berry decided that she would like to respond to this, and her response was, “If it is an independent school, it is up to the parents, because they are paying the bills.”
If that is the attitude that the government has, that because a student who wants to learn English as a second language goes to a non-government school, the ACT government can in effect wash their hands of responsibility for informing kids about the English language, I think that is absolutely disgraceful. If this is the education minister for all students and for all schools, then we would not have a situation whereby the minister for education is washing her hands of the need for all kids to learn English.
It is also worth noting that there are actually many schools in Canberra, especially in the Catholic systemic system, that actually give places to students on a fee waiver basis. In actual fact, I know that there are schools, schools in Ms Berry’s electorate, that take refugee kids at no cost to the family. It is schools like that that desperately need support when it comes to teaching English as a second language.
I very much hope that Ms Berry will stand up in this place following my contribution and either refute what she said or in some way back up what she has said, because I think it was a very unfortunate contribution that she made.
MS BERRY (Ginninderra—Deputy Chief Minister, Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development, Minister for Housing and Suburban Development, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Minister for Women and Minister for Sport and Recreation): Madam Assistant Speaker, I seek to make a personal explanation under standing order 46. The opposition leader has wrongly represented me in this place.
MADAM ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ms Cody): The minister may proceed.
MS BERRY: Had I known that I was going to get a personal attack from the Leader of the Opposition then I would not have allowed the opportunity to continue the conversation about inclusivity in the ACT. Had he listened to my comments and repeated them verbatim then it would have been okay to have a conversation about it. Public education and public schools do provide ESL as part of a program supporting refugee and migrant children in the ACT.
I understand that independent schools in the ACT have just increased their fees and I understand that a number of those schools provide English language programs as well. But it is up to those independent schools and Catholic schools to decide the programs that they would like to run in their schools, not for the government to direct them. If the independent schools in the ACT would like to be funded by the government and be accountable to and administered by the government then we would be able to direct the schools on the kinds of programs that they could deliver in their schools.