Save Moora College signs are everywhere for good reason, as although the closure of Moora Residential College may seem like a local Moora issue, affecting 27 families who don’t even live in Moora, it is a watershed for rural WA.
A school is the hub of a country community. It is at the bottom of the pyramid. A seemingly insignificant decision to close the college, will have long lasting impact upon regional families, education, housing, business, local government, the Aboriginal community, building human capital within the region, and attracting skilled people to farms and businesses.
With the closure of the college and the loss of students, the immediate effect is a reduction in budget to Central Midlands Senior High School. The loss of teachers and thus subjects is then a very real consequence. The final effect will be downgrading the only Senior High School between Perth and Geraldton to a District High School – only offering up to year 10.
Culturally, a further issue is at stake. Indigenous populations rarely move away from their birth place. And as none of the alternatives offered by the State Government are family areas of local Aboriginal people, the higher education for the 25% indigenous student population of Moora and surrounds is threatened.
New business setting up innovative industries have chosen Moora for amenity to banks, hospital and education. Significant income generation, primarily agricultural, creates export dollars to support the Australian economy. If mechanics, agronomists, sales staff, shire officers, teachers, doctors and accountants cannot be attracted and kept living in rural WA then industry cannot thrive.
Many have been trying to address the rural city divide for a long time. This government has now underpinned this lack of knowledge of the good things rural, with poor policy. Policy initiated by the Education Department, unaccountable to anyone. People are asking why. Rural WA is saying, ‘no more’.
In Moora, business and Local Government are working together to achieve increasing diversity of employment, culture, age demographics resulting in a vibrant community into the future.
Recent changes to Year 7 education by the education bureaucracy now sees women and children re-locating to the city for education from every small community in WA. The loss of people who contribute significantly to their communities because they must value their children’s future first, leaves all of rural WA under pressure of too many jobs, paid and unpaid for those left in communities.
Limited education quality and choice now sees men left alone on farms. Suicide amongst rural men exceeds the road toll. Loneliness and isolation breeds depression.
It costs $313, 000 to run the Moora Residential College each year. It will cost approximately $1.3m to close and the loss of many jobs, directly and indirectly. The repair bill is unknown, but estimated to be under $200,000.
With good education hanging perilously in the balance, the seemingly innocuous closure of one small residential college, threatens the ability of the Moora community to innovate and thrive. The College is a multi-purpose facility that can be expanded, not deleted.
This was well understood by Mike Nahan, Leader of the Opposition, Donna Faragher, Shadow Minister for Education and Jim Chown, Shadow Minister for Regional Development who took the time to visit Moora on Friday 27 April. They spoke at length with the business leaders, Community Resource Centre members and the Moora Shire Council. What strikes you as very different to the present government is that Mike Nahan suggested he listen first and then asked questions. The Premier and Minister Ellery have not yet seen fit to visit Moora.
The Deputy Leader of the Federal National Party, Senator Bridget McKenzie visited the following Sunday speaking with Council, CMSHS P&C, visiting the Mavericks Football game and then to the Equestrian Park. Save Moora College front and central on her agenda. It is now a Federal Issue.
Many concerned supporters from all over WA have written letters to the Editor of The West, erected signs “Save Moora College”, sent personal letters to politicians, have spoken to their friends, and used social media widely. This continues to make the difference.