The Save Our Schools Canberra group today accused the Stanhope Government of disadvantaging Indigenous students and their families in its school closure plan.
Trevor Cobbold, SOS spokesperson, said that most of the schools with significant Indigenous enrolments are on the list for full or partial closure.
“Indigenous students and their families will bear a disproportionate burden of the costs and disruption from the Government’s school closure plan.
“Indigenous students comprise about 2.5% of total enrolments in the ACT. However, six of the seven primary schools in Canberra with Indigenous enrolments of more than 5% of their total enrolments are proposed for closure or partial closure. In total, only 10 schools in Canberra have more than 5% of their total enrolments comprised of Indigenous students and 7 of these schools are on the list for full or partial closure.
“Indigenous students comprise over 40% of enrolments at Narrabundah PS, yet under the Government’s plan it will lose its unique identity and autonomy. It is proposed either to become only a P-3 school or to be merged with a school nearly 3km away with a totally different student profile and school culture.
“The other two primary schools with the highest proportion of Indigenous students in Canberra (Melrose – 13% and Mt. Neighbour – 9%) are proposed for full closure. Other primary schools to be close which have a high proportion of Indigenous enrolments are Gilmore, Isabella Plains and Village Creek.
“Kambah HS, which has the highest proportion of Indigenous enrolments of all stand-alone high schools, is also proposed for closure.”
Mr. Cobbold said that the closure of most schools serving larger numbers of Indigenous families will increase the financial burdens on Indigenous families and threaten recent improvements in Indigenous learning outcomes.
“Indigenous students and their families will suffer disproportionately from the direct impacts of school closures, with reduced access to a local school and higher transport costs. These extra costs will be a massive burden for many Indigenous families – over one-third of Indigenous children in the ACT live in households without any employed person.
“Reduced access to a local school and higher transport costs could exacerbate student absenteeism. Indigenous learning outcomes are likely to be set back, after much progress has been made in recent years.
Mr. Cobbold said that the Towards 2020 Plan stands as an indictment of the Stanhope Government on Indigenous policy.
“Not too long ago the Stanhope Government launched the Canberra Plan with loud proclamations of its commitment to equity and inclusion and to promote equitable outcomes for Indigenous people. Towards 2020 makes an absolute mockery of these commitments.
“Despite its high rhetoric about improving Indigenous well-being, the Stanhope Government’s school closure plan effectively discriminates against Indigenous parents and students by targeting the schools that serve them for closure or merger.”
Mr. Cobbold said that the impact of school closures on the educational, financial and social well-being of Indigenous people should be examined as part of an independent inquiry on the Towards 2020 plan.
“The Education Act requires the Government to assess the financial, educational and social impact of school closures on students and their families. Clearly, the Government has ignored this issue for Indigenous students and families.
“The only way the Stanhope Government can re-claim its credibility on Indigenous affairs and social equity and inclusion is to establish an independent inquiry to examine the full financial, educational and social impact of the Towards 2020 plan.”