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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3221


Mr MAHER(9.21) —Tonight I raise an issue which affects many inner city electorates, that is, the problem of school playground space. In the older suburbs the sites were acquired and the schools built many years ago, and playground space is totally inadequate in both government and non-government schools. My attention has been drawn by the Parliamentary Library to the United Nations International Charter of Physical Education and Sport, proclaimed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in 1978. The Charter states:

Every human being has a fundamental right of access to physical education and sport, which are essential for the full development of his personality. The freedom to develop physical, intellectual and moral powers through physical education and sport must be guaranteed both within the educational system and in other aspects of social life.

The Library was kind enough also to direct my attention to reports by a University of Queensland researcher, Mrs Carolyn O'Brien, that children who were kept quiet constantly lose out on developing important movement skills. I have raised in this House before the problem of some of the schools in my electorate which have very restricted playgrounds in which the children must be sedentary. There are boys' schools where boys are not allowed to run around because the playground area is so small.

Tonight I wish to mention a few of those schools. I raise this issue in the hope that the Commonwealth Schools Commission can investigate the problem and come up with some sort of recommendation. Within my electorate the only organ of government that has been interested in the problem of school playground areas is local government. In several cases the local municipal council has acquired properties adjoining a school and sold them, particularly in the non-government sector, to a non-government school. In the case of the Burwood Council, it has sold a road. The Presbyterian Ladies College, Sydney, which is at Croydon, received great co-operation from the former Mayor of Burwood, Alderman Lutman, who arranged for a road around the college to be sold to this girls secondary school, which has a large number of boarders, in order to allow the school to increase the playground so that there would be sufficient room. Many of the buildings at the school were very old and the playground space was extremely restricted. When young girls are living in the college all week, there must be sufficient area for play and recreation. The same situation arose at Haberfield in my electorate in regard to a parish school, which had an extremely restricted site. The municipal council acquired properties and did a swap for some other church land nearby, and that school acquired a playground.

For some reason, particularly in the non-government school section, neither the State nor the Commonwealth has publicly recognised the problem or come up with any solution. The State is not necessarily confronted with this problem because it has the power to resume properties to add to the size of a school, for the building of schools or for the extension of playgrounds. In one government school in my electorate at Homebush the school playground was surrounded by expensive blocks of flats. An ingenious architect devised an elevated playground at first floor level, which added about 20 per cent to the size of the playground and made a very stimulating area and some most interesting places for children to be taught and in which to recreate.

I put it to the House tonight that the Commonwealth Schools Commisssion should be asked to investigate this issue because a school should be a place which is enjoyable and a place where children are stimulated. Often a school playground can be improved quite inexpensively by the planting of trees or shrubs. In this regard I congratulate the principal of the Croydon Public School. He beautified his school by carrying out the planting of shrubs and trees around the playground and nurtured them throughout the drought. There is no comparison between a school such as Croydon and Burwood Primary School, which has a barren playground. It is opposite the main railway line between Sydney and Parramatta and is adjacent to big shopping centres and access roads to the shopping centres . That is in stark contrast to the situation at Croydon.

In many of the schools in my electorate children come from families in which English is not spoken, and in many of those families there is no tradition of children engaging in weekend sport or out-of-school activities such as Brownies, Guides or any of the activities that other children engage in. There is a tradition of close parental supervision and children not leaving the home. In many of these shcools children from ethnic families make up the vast majority of the pupils-50, 60 or 80 per cent, or perhaps even 90 per cent in some schools. So there is a need for the school to provide facilities for physical recreation, physical education and just simply for play-for ball games and other such activities. Schools within my electorate and in many of the other city electorates throughout Australia have playgrounds which cannot provide this basic facility. I have been told by the Library that the Adelaide Girls High School has extremely restricted play areas. To overcome this, a swimming pool was provided to the school at not a very substantial cost, but it made up for the lack of play facilities. The opportunity to swim would be a wonderful addition to any school. Meriden College in Strathfield in my electorate has a similar facility. A swimming pool was erected on a very restricted site. It has a very tiny playground, and the pool is essential for this school because the Strathfield Municipal Council provides no local swimming pool.

One other problem has been brought to my attention in this area. A very large Catholic boys high school, St Patrick's College at Strathfield in my electorate, has 1,250 boys. This school is on four to five acres, which seems a lot of land, but it is not very much when one considers the number of pupils and the fact that part of the area is taken up by an oval. A local road, Edgar Street, which is owned by the council, goes through the school. For some reason that I cannot understand, and I am sure the school authorities cannot comprehend, the Council will not sell this road to the school. It is essential that the school increase its play areas. It is also essential for the safety of the boys and teachers who cross the road all the time. In other suburbs nearby there have been instances where councils have sold roads. I mentioned earlier that nearby at Burwood, in the neighbouring municipality, a very good arrangement exists.

My hope is that the Commonwealth Schools Commission can identify areas where sites should be acquired to give a minimum area of playground space. Commonwealth moneys could certainly be made available to acquire sites to facilitate playground activities. The sites could be acquired by the State and even leased to the schools. If there were qualms about handing over land to schools, or any difficulties under the Constitution it could be designated as Commonwealth playground space or some such thing. I feel that the Commonwealth Schools Commission should enter this area of concern. Parents have raised with me the question of safety in restricted playgrounds, and the fact that children are often hurt on equipment, that unsuitable equipment such as metal seats are provided in playgrounds. In a country with a climate like Australia's such playground facilities are quite out of character.

I am raising these issues tonight because the Government is doing much to encourage young people to stay at school and go on to complete their education. I have certainly applauded these moves. If schools are to be made places of interest, places of excitement for young people, places of community attention and the centre of the local community, they must be improved. The playgrounds must not only be beautified but also be adequate to meet the needs of people particularly those in inner city areas. In many cases these schools have vast enrolments of children who are encouraged in the school situation but perhaps out of the school situation receive little enthusiasm or little support from their families to take part in sporting activities or any other extra curricula activities. I recommend that the Commonwealth Schools Commission examine some of the matters I have raised tonight. Certainly in the electorate I represent there are many areas where additional school playground space is urgently needed.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.