Media Release 12 September 2007 – SOS fears ‘another sham process’ over school sites

Save Our Schools fears that the ACT Government is running another ‘sham consultation process’ for the future use of closed school sites, as the Government has apparently ignored advice on how to run a better and more credible process.

“The Government appears to have ignored advice from an invitation-only stakeholder briefing by fast-tracking the school sites’ consultation and restricting the opportunity for affected communities to develop local solutions,” according to Save Our School spokesperson, Jane Tullis. (As the follow-up to last year’s school closure process, the future use of school sites is a matter of high public interest. Consultants to TAMS, Purdon Associates, held a stakeholder group briefing last Tuesday and are expected to launch the consultation Website this week.)

A letter sent to “stakeholders” this week suggested that three District Forums will be held on September 24, 25 and 27 and that stakeholders would receive a formal invitation, Mrs Tullis said.

“This all seems very rushed, especially when a clear message from those at last week’s briefing was that three months is not long enough to run a good process,” Mrs Tullis said. “Most groups represented said they needed longer to participate effectively.”

“The other key message from stakeholders was that the process needs to empower local communities, particularly those most affected by school closures, to come up with local solutions,” Mrs Tullis said. “There was strong support at the briefing to change the process to allow local communities to drive the ideas rather than respond to pre-determined decisions that are pushed through at district and community levels.”

“This week’s letter has not changed the process as requested but puts district forums first followed by ‘community information and feedback sessions’,” Mrs Tullis said. “This process does nothing to allay fears that some invited interest groups will influence strategies at district level to the detriment of the affected communities. “The process does nothing to ease community suspicion that this is all about land sales revenue in the lead up to the 2008 ACT election.”

“School sites are effectively community-owned resources for which successive governments are only caretakers for this and future generations. At a time of healthy surplus, it would be outrageous for the wide-scale selling-off of community assets and future use options to fund an election platform,” Ms Tullis said.

“We hope that there is still time for the ACT Government and its consultants – Purdon Associates – to change the process so that it is not a repeat of the 2006 school closure debacle but something more credible, well considered and better supported by the Canberra community.”

Contact: Jane Tullis 0404 905 080 (m)

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