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Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Page: 4365

Mr SYMON (Deakin) (18:22): I speak in support of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2011-2012 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012. These appropriation bills deliver on Labor's key election commitments made last year and continue Labor's expansion of local projects and services not only in my electorate of Deakin but right across the country. In this debate I think it is very relevant to report on the outcomes of our previous budgets which have seen Labor deliver on major projects which have transformed local schools and local infrastructure—again, not only in my electorate of Deakin but across Australia.

Since the last budget, I have personally opened 11 Building the Education Revolution Primary Schools for the 21st Century projects in Deakin. For many of these schools this was the first major investment on infrastructure for decades—not just one or two decades but in some cases three or four decades. It is very satisfying to see the difference that new buildings have made to our local schools. Some of these schools are weatherboard and were put up in the 1950s, and I hate to say that some still have only one power point in the classroom, so to see new buildings replace what was there or at least help out is a great start. It really has made schools look better from the kerbside as well. Something that is often forgotten is that when parents are looking for schools for their children they quite often, even though they should not, look at the outside and judge by that rather than what is on the inside.

The schools that I have opened so far this year are: Blackburn Primary School, Burwood East Primary School, Burwood Heights Primary School, Eastwood Primary School, Marlborough Primary School, Old Orchard Primary School, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Primary School in Ringwood, St James Primary School in Vermont, St John the Evangelist Catholic Primary School in Mitcham, St Thomas the Apostle Primary School in Blackburn and Tintern Girls Grammar School Early Learning Centre in Ringwood East. These schools have all had huge benefits from the different types of buildings they have been able to choose and apply to their schools.

Of course, that goes across the range of sectors; it is not only the state government sector but also the Catholic and private sectors as well. They have all done very well with their choices and with the way they have been able to utilise the buildings. The buildings are of course modern and sometimes that shows up even more, I suppose, the difference in the ages of the infrastructure provided, but I think it is a great start for each and every one of them. When you compare some of the old classrooms—which, to be honest, look exactly like the classrooms I was taught in—with these new buildings and you see the open spaces and the new methods that can be used to teach, it really is a case of looking at two different worlds. I would like to relate just a few of the openings I have been to because I think they are all valid, especially for the schools. They were a really big event for schools that, in many cases, as I said, had seen no investment for such a long time.

On 22 October last year, I visited Blackburn Primary School for their official opening. They have a full-sized basketball hall there. Blackburn Primary are particularly noted for their music program and, as a primary school, they quite honestly have one of the best school bands and music programs you will find in Melbourne. They are a great feeder for Blackburn High School, which is just up the road and which also has a particularly good music program. With their new, full-sized hall, Blackburn primary can now stage concerts. They can have full school assemblies in one room without the parents having to stand outside and literally put their heads inside the windows to be able to hear what is going on, because the space was simply too small. So they have been able to make great use of their facility in school hours, and the facility is also used outside of school hours by the local basketball club to train on. That is a great outcome for the community.

On 30 November last year, I visited Our Lady of Perpetual Help Primary School in Ringwood to open their new BER P21 facility. They chose to build new classrooms. For a school that was built in the 1950s and which has never had a great source of funding to build new buildings it came at the perfect time. Indeed, when initial work was done, it was found that the buildings they proposed to add to were in fact structurally deficient and not that far from having to be taken down. So it worked out very well that they had chosen to build a two-story, purpose-built, six-classroom complex and IT centre. That has made the school bigger and they are now able to fit in more children, but it has also made it a modern school, which is something that it had not been up to that date. The school also used some of their funding to upgrade the entrance to their hall so that the children can go in and out from the quadrangle instead of going through the end of the hall, and that is a great benefit every day at the school.

Last year on 1 December I visited the Burwood East Primary School and opened their brand-new P21 building. They now have a hall where they can have an assembly. I have been to the school many times. In fact it was back in 2008, when I was doing the school awards at the end of the year, that we all got rained on—not only me but also the children, the teachers and the parents—and there was simply nowhere to go. They had no indoor facility whatsoever. They do now and it is a modern one with a movable stage, and each and every student and parent and everyone involved in the school can see the difference. It is a facility that of course gets used every day.

On 8 December in Blackburn I opened the Old Orchard Primary School BER project. Theirs was a large building that they specifically put aside for years and 5 and 6. It has two large open spaces, with break-out areas and linked classrooms. It is also directly connected to the rest of the school buildings so that it is not out in the middle of the paddock, so if the weather is inclement no-one need get wet.

On 10 December last year in Mitcham I officially opened the St John the Evangelist Primary School new buildings and refurbishments. For a school that is of a similar age to the others I have described, the funding has been a great boost. They now have brand-new and modern facilities in a mix of new buildings and refurbished old buildings. The school has also had to go to two storeys because they do not have much land there. They have also managed to enclose many of the exposed walkways they used to have and, therefore, have made larger teaching and learning spaces. On 25 February this year I opened the new multipurpose centre at St James Primary School in Vermont. It has new teaching spaces but, most importantly, it has a very large assembly space that the school, along with the entire school community, can use for the sorts of things that many schools take for granted—that is, have school assemblies inside and not outside in the weather. The project at St James also included the refurbishment of existing classrooms and a brand-new IT and library space.

On 9 March this year I visited Tintern Girls Grammar School in Ringwood East and opened their brand-new early learning centre for preschoolers. It was a very innovative project and is a quite striking building, most unlike others I have seen. I am sure it will stand the test of time for its quality finish both inside and out. The school also contributed money to supplement the BER funding and was able to get something larger than a straight-out government contribution would have got.

The Burwood Heights Primary School was also very privileged to open a brand-new multipurpose centre on 15 March. They are able to use it for extra classrooms while the school is being rebuilt under the state government's Building Futures program. Once they finish using it as classrooms, they will be able to use it as an open area, but already they are able to use it as an assembly area. This is yet another school in my electorate that had a hall that had no hope of holding all the students in it, let alone teachers and parents. I have attended many assemblies there in the past and they have had to be done two or three years at a time. They simply could not fit all the children in.

On 16 March this year I visited St Thomas the Apostle Primary School in Blackburn, also to open their new buildings. It is another school that has had to go to two storeys because of the lack of land, but they have been very smart and they put in an excellent IT centre—one of the best I have seen—but also blended it into the old school. The office and the facilities that the children use are seamless between one building and the other. Of note there was a great decision, in a two-storey school, to install a lift so there is disabled access now and in the future.

Last week, on 18 May, I opened the new early learning centre for prep to grade 2 at Marlborough Primary School in Heathmont. The building there has made a particular difference to the school. It is right at the front access, so it is one of these schools where that is the first thing that prospective parents see, rather than an old and faded school building. It has also meant that the school has been able to get rid of all of their portable buildings. I remember when I first saw Marlborough primary in 2008, when I was in this job, and the thing that stuck out in my mind was the rows of portable buildings. Not all of them were used but they certainly detracted from the look of the school. Many of them were in quite a run-down state. They are all gone now, each and every one of them, and I think that is a great result for Marlborough primary.

Also last week, on 18 May, I was privileged to officially open the Eastwood Primary School's new multipurpose hall. In particular, this is one that I think deserves a special comment because its design was not the standard state government template. Its design came about through a group of local principals and action from me and the local state education department to come up with something better for schools that did not quite qualify for the full $3 million allocation because of their size. Schools that qualified for the lesser amount in Victoria did not automatically qualify for a full-sized building. For instance, a school that had just under 400 students would not have got a full-sized building. In my area, we now have what is called the Maroondah template, named after the council area and also the network of schools. There are now 10 schools in Victoria that have this special design and have a full-sized building where they may not have. I think it is a great result. It is big enough to hold a basketball court, and many of them are already talking to teams or have already signed agreements with basketball or netball teams for training so that these buildings get used after hours as well as within school hours.

All these brand-new school projects were delivered for local school communities in agreed time frames and within budget. But there are many more schools in Deakin that are awaiting their official openings or finishing off their BER buildings. Mostly, I am happy to say, they are waiting for an appropriate time to do an official opening. Many of them have moved in and have been using their facilities for a number of months. That is great to see, because there is a big long list of them. Hopefully by the latter part of this year we will have each and every one of those done.

There are also a few schools where things have not gone so smoothly. One school in particular, Great Ryrie Primary School, has had issues with soil. Finally we have got over those and they have now started building. We also have Whitehorse Primary School, a school which was completely knocked over and is in the process of being rebuilt with both federal and state money. That came about in many ways because of the availability of BER funding. That is a great example of what can be done if governments put their minds to working with each other in the education space.

I look forward to the completion of the BER P21 program in Deakin in the near future. I know that students in every primary and special school in the electorate—and of course, as I said before, right across Australia—will have the benefit of this groundbreaking federal investment in education infrastructure. But it should never be forgotten that the Liberal Party and their partners, the Nationals, opposed these wonderful local projects and voted against the funding in this very place in 2009. If the Liberal and National parties had had their way then these buildings would never have been built and schools in Deakin would have been around about $80 million worse off in infrastructure. Children would still have been using 1950s facilities and the local community would have been left behind.

Of course, it is not only schools that have been part of the BER and the associated rollout in Deakin. There was also investment in many other facilities, whether they be TAFEs, local infrastructure at a council level or sporting facilities. There will be many more opportunities in this place to talk about such things in the future, and I most certainly will be doing that. On that note, I would like to commend these bills to the House.