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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1634

Schools: Security

Mr VARVARIS (Barton) (14:44): My question is the Minister for Justice. Will the minister inform the House how the government is helping to protect students in schools in my electorate and across Australia from the risk of attack or violence?

Mr KEENAN (StirlingMinister for Justice) (14:44): I thank the member for Barton for that question—a hardworking member who hosted me in his electorate this morning at Al Zahra College, which is in receipt of $167,000 from the government's Schools Security Program. We want parents who send their kids to school to be focused on the education of those kids, not worrying about their safety. Prior to the election, we made a commitment to continue the Schools Security Program with a boost of $18 million. This $18 million will fund 54 at-risk schools, who will share in this funding: 11 independent schools, 11 government schools, 17 Jewish schools and 15 Islamic schools. For the first time under this program, this money can be used to employ security guards as well as for the installation of security infrastructure, such as CCTV, security lighting and fencing.

Last year, after we came to office, I wrote to all the state and territory education ministers and the Independent Schools Council, asking them for nominations of at-risk schools and preschools. My department then contacted those nominated schools and preschools and invited them to apply for this funding. We also then provided those schools with assistance to apply for this funding.

I want to make it very clear to this House and to the community that this funding is not being committed in response to any particular threat. There is no particular threat that the government is aware of. This funding is recognition that some schools have a higher-risk profile and therefore they have higher security needs. We want to make sure that our schools' primary focus is on student education and that every student has the right to come to school each day knowing that they will be taught in a safe and secure learning environment. This program is about ensuring that schools do not have to divert funding from education priorities, or impose higher costs on parents, to ensure that their students can be taught in a safe and secure environment.

Clearly, it would be better that we lived at a time when we did not need to have programs such as this. But, whilst we have a heightened security environment, the schools that are assessed as being at higher risk for whatever reason—be it the background of their students, be it their location—can expect that their federal government will join with the state and territory governments to provide the extra security that those school communities need, and I was very pleased to be at Al Zahra College with the member for Barton this morning, doing exactly that.