Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 1 May 1991
Parliamentary Record 3
Debates for 6th Assembly 1990 - 1994; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 6th Assembly 1990 - 1994
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 1 May 1991 last year. I am happy to make Mr Hudson's report available to the member for MacDonnell. I am sure that Hugh Hudson would be known to the member and that he would not reject the assertion that this man is recognised as an expert in education. Mr Hudson reported: 'It is also clear that, if economies are not achieved by some process of rationalisation of school sites and school land, and action 1s not taken to implement infill development and suburban extension, economies can always be achieved by across-the-board cuts in the number of teachers and other staff employed. Such changes would only succeed in providing a system-wide cut in educational standards'. Our education system is a shared resource. No individual or group has a right or a mortgage which entitles them to receive more than others within our community. In the 1980s, new suburbs and communities developed in various places throughout the Territory. In the 5 years since 1986, a total of $42m was spent by this government on new education facilities in those communities. An additional $25m was spent on upgrading and repairs, including significant projects such as the Darwin High School Tank and the refurbishment of Anzac Hill High School. Schools such as Katherine East, Driver High, the Gray Neighbourhood Centre and Berry Springs have been built in the last 5 years. At the same time, the population in other areas dropped significantly. We are talking about a population shift in the Territory school population. For example, in Darwin, the school population fell from 15 166 to 14 587. Despite all the growth in centres like Katherine and Palmerston, the entire Northern Territory school population increased only marginally during those 5 years, from 33 192 to 34 252. There has been a shift in that population. Today, in Darwin primary schools, 33.1% of student places are vacant across-the-board. In these times, it would be an unjustifiable indulgence for them to remain so. I return to the findings of Hugh Hudson's report, not as a definitive statement but as an illustration of the cost of empty school places. At page 9 of the report, a table appears. It indicates that a school of 150 students costs $3062 per student to run, whilst the same school, with 500 students, costs $2060 per student. In order to stop wasting resources on vacant space, Hudson had to relocate 150 students. However, for each relocated student, there was a saving of $1002 per year. Leaving aside the huge amounts which still remain to be saved in capital costs, Hudson summarises: 'It is not unreasonable to conclude that the closure of smaller primary schools will save an average of $210 000'. I remind the House that that is $210 000 per year. It is recurrent funding. At the end of this year, the following Northern Territory schools will close: Tiwi, Rapid Creek, Karguru, Traeger Park, Warrego, Ganjarani, Kiana and Berrimah Preschool. The member for MacDonnell alluded to the fact that he and I had one attribute in common, in that we had both been teachers. I do understand the concern which is being felt in each and every one of these schools. That recognition extends down to each of the students at the 3 smaller schools involved. While many more students are affected 1n Darwin, Alice Springs and Tennant Creek, I do not believe that the concern is any less among the few students at McArthur River or Kiana or among members of their families. For that reason, support and guidance from the Department of Education will be forthcoming for each student and family affected by the ERC process. For some time, the government has been forecasting changes in the face of education as we move Into the 1990s. The member for MacDonnell would be 783
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