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Tuesday, 1 February 1994
Page: 34

Mr CHYNOWETH (4.30 p.m.) —Since the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill was last discussed on Saturday, 18 December 1993, school has started and there have been many changes. I feel it is my duty as a member of the House of Representatives for the state of Victoria to bring to the notice of this chamber some of the problems that people are experiencing at the beginning of the school year in Victoria.

  Before I do I congratulate the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), a member of the National Party of Australia. It is fairly rare that one congratulates a member of an opposite party, but the honourable member for Murray said on Saturday, 18 December 1993:

  I certainly do not trust the Victorian government because, when we checked ahead of the Senate committee and ahead of our position as to what we do with this matter, the information given to me by the Victorian government was that it would not adhere to all of that allocation to rural schools.

I believe that the honourable member for Murray is the first person from the opposition who has come out and said something against the Victorian government. I congratulate him. I hope that all the other National Party members, and even Liberal Party members, from Victoria will take a similar stance against what is happening in Victoria in relation to country schools particularly and many metropolitan schools. Even some schools in my area have been affected.

  I will quickly give a snapshot of what is happening to country schools in Victoria. The Berriwillock primary school has been closed. Berriwillock is close to Sea Lake near Swan Hill. That school's students will have to go to the Sea Lake school, which is 19 kilometres away. They will travel by bus and their parents will have to make a lot of extra effort. Those children might have had to travel 40 or 50 kilometres to that school. They will now have to go another 19 kilometres. The list goes on. I could go on for at least half an hour. I have papers listing all the schools that have been closed or merged. Students have been affected by what is happening in Victoria. It is most important that people be aware of the problems there.

  Ages 7 to 11 are the most important years in any child's education. They are the formative years. Unless children are treated correctly at that age, unless they have proper facilities and access to school, problems will develop later in their life. Illiteracy is a problem. Over one million people in Australia are illiterate. Literacy is taught during those years. The primary school at Mildura has 36 kids in the class. That is disgraceful. How can a teacher give proper attention to those children and satisfy the needs of their parents?

  In 1993 at the Flora Hill secondary college, which is in the electorate of Bendigo, because of staffing cuts, 165 students were taught German by a displaced teacher who—wait for it—does not even speak a word of German. In 1993 at the Eaglehawk secondary college in Bendigo, French was being taught by a trained science teacher who had no knowledge of French. Ouyen secondary college had a physics vacancy. It was filled by a former staff member who was on family leave and worked for nothing. These sorts of things are going on in our country schools. These rural schools do not have enough staff, so they are cutting out art, music, cultural studies and all the things that are very necessary in country areas.

  I feel it is important that people be aware of this situation. The schools that have been closed in Victoria have often been the centre of small communities. Teachers are transported there to live for a couple of years. The schools that are being closed down are the hub of those small communities.

  A school at Club Terrace, which is in the Gippsland area, has been closed. Eight students will now have to face a one-hour bus trip into Cann River, which is 25 kilometres away, via a logging track and a busy highway. School buses are overcrowded. They have no seat belts and they are dangerous. Wait until an accident happens. Who will be blamed then? An accident will happen one of these days. Those school kids are being placed in terrible danger because of the penny-pinching and intransigence of the Victorian Minister for Education.

  Many schools that are not in the municipal areas have called for the resignation of Minister Hayward. They include schools from Gippsland and Wannon. One of the most telling pieces of journalism that have been written on the Minister for Education, Don Hayward, was written in the Bendigo Advertiser. It states:

Education Minister Don Hayward should resign in shame.

Around country Victoria this week, tens of thousands of parents and teachers will be saddened at the farce he is imposing on our education system.

They will be outraged at the prevarication, overt lying, the shifting rules and the economic gobbledygook which now governs the system.

It also states:

Mr Hayward has attempted to use the lack of maintenance—this is one reason he gave for closing all these schools—as a reason for closing schools; which is a bit like incinerating your car because it has bald tyres . . .

These comments are appearing in our local papers in Victoria. All these schools are being closed down and these kids in Victoria are being affected. I know that the Minister for Schools, Vocational Education and Training (Mr Free), who is at the table, is aware of some of the things that are happening in Victoria. I am quite certain that he will take action to ensure that the children of Victoria—not only those in the metropolitan areas, but especially those in the country areas—are looked after and given proper education and that somehow or other the Victorian government will be brought into line.