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Wednesday, 16 May 1973
Page: 2247

Mr HEWSON (McMillan) - In March this year, due to the enterprise and dedication of many teachers and educationists in the electorate of McMillan, a teachers centre was set in motion. Having been granted an honorary membership of that centre I propose tonight, with the case history of this new concept, to prove to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) the necessity for him to provide Commonwealth financial support. This teaching centre, without doubt, is a place where there is an opportunity to coordinate all Commonwealth education grants and ensure a greater utilisation of Commonwealth grants and a more equitable use of equipment and teachers, ft will promote community involvement in education. The Teachers centre has been fortunate in securing a very sound and spacious building which was formerly Our Lady of Sion convent. It provides ample space and a variety of study rooms, making a very versatile building. 1 have reason to believe that this type of centre which has been initiated, organised and financed by practising teachers is an important project and already it has received the support of both State and Catholic education authorities. The centre has been offered assistance by the Monash University education faculty in the town of staff as occasional lecturers. The organisers are convinced that a teachers centre 4s of great potential value in any district and hope that other groups of teachers and administrators eventually will look at the project as the forerunner of widespread growth of teacher sponsored centres throughout Australia. Belief in the importance of teachers centres is not without substance. The editor of the 'Teachers World' in London wrote in the issue of 12th May 1972:

It is no overstatement to claim that the concept of the teachers centre is one of the most significant and positive ideas to have touched the professional lives of teachers during more than a century of state education.

The centre will survive without external grants but its potential will never be fully developed. A substantial injection of funds to assist in the first year of operation would enable it to provide quality services to its members. This would boost membership and its finances sufficiently to make the centre financially self-sufficient. I point out that the finances are derived from membership subscriptions of teachers and other people interested in education.

The Government's stated policy of identifying and eradicating inequalities in education will be implemented in the centre's programs. I believe that the teachers' centre, where staff from all sectors - rural and urban; primary, secondary and tertiary; private and State - gather together is an excellent medium for perceiving areas of need and generating programs to cope with the problems revealed. I believe that a well-equipped centre could perform this role relatively cheaply. Duplication of resources by larger schools should be reduced by pooling in the centre expensive equipment which is not in continuous use. An example might illustrate the point. Teachers are increasingly aware of the potential of fixed camera units in producing their own colour slides photographed from magazines. As these devices would not be needed for daily use in any school, and could not be afforded by most schools in any event, it would surely be sensible for one such item of equipment to be housed in a centre after being purchased with funds levied on a per capita basis from all schools that would use the equipment. Thus the one-teacher schools in the district which could never justify the purchase of such an item would have access to it at a low cost. The large high schools would pay more towards its purchase but would use it more. The end result would be a piece of equipment, which might otherwise lie idle for months on end in a single school, being used regularly by a wide range of schools.

Apart from material inequalities, many schools suffer from needs of a human kind. The teacher in the isolated rural school is sometimes provided with plenty of hardware by a strong school committee. However, his isolation can leave him ill-equipped with ideas. Access to a centre's activities, as well as its material benefits, would serve the rural teacher well. The centre will promote an active decentralisation of educational services and activities. There will be regular lectures for higher school certificate students and their teachers. Other lecture programs will bring well known educationists from the metropolitan area to speak to teachers and nonteachers. It should be pointed out that many country teachers are involved in courses to update their qualifications. They suffer hardships as a consequence. An example of this might be appropriate. One teacher recently completed a Bachelor of Education degree at a metropolitan university. He has estimated that the cost to him was at least four times greater than it would have been for a counterpart in the metropolitan area. It is submitted that a good professional library in a centre might offset at least some of the disadvantages of being a country teacher trying to do a course.

The centre will promote community involvement in education and, if adequately funded, might later be available for adult retraining programs - for example, refreSher courses for married women interested in returning to teaching and preliminary courses for persons wishing to become teachers. In conjunction with local officers of the Department of Labour, the centre will run courses or seminars for careers masters from regional schools. It will seek to provide careers information and guidance for students and adults. The centre could serve as a show place for equipment provided to schools by Commonwealth grants. It could serve the dual role of providing a place where the public could be informed of Commonwealth involvement and of providing teachers with functional equipment necessary for the operation of the centre.

I submit that this is a worthwhile project. I am pleased that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) is present in the chamber. I am sure that he appreciates the points I have made and has already had contact with the people concerned. I hope he will recognise the need for financial support. I know that the local teachers would appreciate it if he could visit them some time to look at the centre.

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