With their efforts successful in securing $8.7 million in federal funding to prevent the closure of Moora Residential College, the passionate grass roots campaigners of the Northern Valleys and beyond may have been happy to take a break from their efforts. This was not the case!
A strong crowd still gathered on the steps of parliament house on 11 September, just a week after Moora College was saved, to object to the remaining education cuts. These include the outsourcing of management of six camp schools and the Landsdale Farm School, the closure of the Herdsman Lake Wildlife centre, and increases in minimum numbers required for community kindergartens.
Bullsbrook Community Kindergarten – an integral part of Bullsbrook for over 40 years — received a letter from the Department of Education at the start of the school year announcing their minimum student enrolment requirements had jumped from 10 to 16. The justification being that a student enrolled in a community kindy with only 10 students utilises nearly double the funding of a kindergarten student enrolled in a traditional on-site school, approximately $13,000.
“In the last 4 years, just 2 kindys have had classes of 10. On a corrected average, not a department manufactured average, we have been bang-on between $6000-$7000 per student – so why the increase in the threshold?” said Jo Matthewson, President of the Bullsbrook Community Kindergarten Parents’ Committee.
The added stress placed on teaching staff and the parent committee of community kindergartens to not only caretake their current group of students, but spruik for enrolments for the next year and beyond is considerable. Once a community kindergarten is closed, it will not re-open.
“We don’t fit the school box, but there’s a reason these facilities have been around for a long time – it’s because they work,” said Jo.
Hon Martin Aldridge MP was also a speaker at the rally, revealing support for The National’s proposal to see part proceeds of the Labor government’s proposed foreign buyers’ tax being used to reverse the education cuts.
“We now have 14 votes, including the four Nationals MPs and nine Liberals in the Legislative Council along with the Shooters and Fishers’ Rick Mazza,” Mr Aldridge said.
“I thank the Liberals and Mr Mazza for their commitment to reversing Labor’s mean education cuts but, unfortunately, 14 votes won’t be enough.
“I urge the members of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, The Greens and the solitary Liberal Democrat to now walk the talk. We require just four more votes to get this amendment passed.
“For months now we’ve heard MPs from these parties decry Labor’s education cuts. The time for pontification is over. This is their chance to make a difference. It’s time to stand up and be counted.”
Whether it is a residential college, a community kindergarten or a farm school, these facilities support and nurture students and their families alongside traditional educational paths.
“We are more than just education,” said Jo, when remarking on the supportive nature of Bullsbrook Community Kindergarten. “It forms groups. It forms support. It forms community.”