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Tuesday, 17 November 1959

Mr FAIRHALL (PATERSON, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, I bring up the report relating to the following work: -

Proposed construction of a Technical High. School at Darwin, Northern Territory.

I am sure that most honorable memberswill welcome this report as a forward step in the provision of modern technical education facilities in Darwin. It may be recalled that the proposal for a new high school in Darwin was first discussed in 1947, but that, on the ground of the inadequacy of the site then reserved, and because of financial difficulties, the proposal was set aside. Unfortunately, the delay has served only to accentuate overcrowding in the existing sub-standard school buildings, which are completely unsuited to a tropical climate. Under the present conditions in Darwin there are mixed primary and secondary schools, and the grounds and the buildings themselves are divided by a busy thoroughfare.

The committee believes that Darwin should have schools that are the equal of schools provided by the Commonwealth elsewhere, and so confidently seeks the approval of the House for the present proposal. During the course of its work the committee had before it a study of population trends in the Northern Territory. Estimates on population inevitably vary, because the rate of population growth will be conditioned by the rate of development in the Northern Territory and by the amount of money available for that development. Two things are clear, however. One is that 500 children must be provided for almost immediately. The other is that in the second stage of the proposals a further 300 to 500 children will have to be provided for in the not very distant future.

Thought is also being given by educationists in Darwin to the fact that the establishment of a university college there would not be out of the way as a proposal for completion by about 1970. However, only time and the development of the Northern

Territory will provide the answer to this aspect of the question.

The area set aside for the school is at Vestey's Hill, which is properly known as Bullocky Point. The old Vestey buildings have been demolished, and the area offers a suitable location both from the point of view of access and of the future development of Darwin. It is more than adequate for the present and for the needs of future development. There is room for playing areas, and I think that the setting aside of a site of this kind will obviate the mistake so often made of providing small areas for schools which ultimately become cramped. The building will be on a prominent point which takes advantage of what there is of scenic beauty on Darwin's harbour side. For that reason, although town planning has not progressed to the point where the future development of Darwin is clear, the committee believes that there will be a need to provide road access to the harbour front, and perhaps some landscape treatment. Therefore the committee recommends that the boundary of the school should be placed not less than 250 feet from the cliff edge.

The buildings proposed will provide light and airy classrooms up to modern standards. The classrooms will be in a threestory block, with two upper floors supported on columns, and linked with the manual training block by a single-floor administrative wing. The plan, which provides for a building standing on piers, will give a considerable area of covered play and assembly space, essential in the Darwin climate.

As with several other recent proposals, the committee had to consider the need for airconditioning the projected building. It gave proper consideration to the matter of costs. The question was looked at in thorough detail, and, on balance, the committee believed that air-conditioning was completely justified if the children of this tropical area were to have conditions reasonably comparable with those provided for children of the southern areas, with whom they are in competition, at least as far as examinations are concerned. The committee has, therefore, recommended that the building should be air-conditioned.

Another matter of great concern to the committee was the provision of an assembly hall. From the evidence it was clear that both the Administration and the South Australian Education Department, which is responsible for the conduct of education in the Northern Territory, took the view that provision for assembly was an integral part of modern education facilities. The committee had in mind the fact that the construction of the building previously proposed had been deferred largely on the ground that the Territory's budget was not unlimited and there was a great need for other types of development. However, the committee was aware that the decision with regard to this building would ultimately rest with the Department of Territories and, after considerable debate, which is recorded in the report, the committee recommended that an assembly hall, suitable for 1,000 children, be included in the school project.

There may be some question why an assembly hall for 1,000 children should be recommended, while the school itself is to cater for only 500. As I said earlier, by the time the first unit of this school building is completed there will be a demand for a second block, to house perhaps another 500 children, and, knowing very well that once such jobs are completed and attention is focused elsewhere, money being devoted to other needs, it is very difficult to get them started again, the committee believed that if an assembly hall was to be provided for the first unit - and it thinks that it should be - then the hall should be adequate for the number of children who will finally be accommodated in the school. The proposed assembly accommodation will ensure adequate provision for all pupils, and the cost will be less than would be the case if a smaller hall were built in the beginning and added to later.

Without the recommended assembly hall, which is estimated to cost about £100,000, the estimate for the building is, in round figures. £455.000. Having regard to the cost of air-conditioning and Darwin building costs, which are generally presumed to be about 60 per cent, greater than those in, say, Melbourne, the committee believes that the cost is justified and recommends the acceptance of the proposal. It also suggests that the evidence justifies urgency.

Ordered to be printed.

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