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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2264

Senator RYAN (Minister for Education)(5.13) —Before passing on to the question of the new non-government schools and the Domremy school in particular, I have been advised by the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority that the matters that were raised by Senator Peter Baume over the application of the higher duties provision are still not finalised. The council has sought comments from the staff and I understand that there is to be a very large meeting of local teachers to discuss that. It may well be that the problems that Senator Baume sees in the application of this matter may in fact be problems and it is possible for that particular provision to be applied in a different way. I agree with Senator Baume that the removal of barriers from one gender should not involve the creation of barriers for the other. I have said that on a number of occasions.

With regard to the approval of new non-government schools for recurrent funding by me in 1986, it is the case that the State committees put applications into four categories of priority-high, medium, low, and lowest. High and medium were consistent with planned education provisions-that is, they had undergone proper consultations with the State planning authorities and other non-government school authorities in the area. The other two categories had not. It is the case that the recommendations of the State committees were passed on to me by the Schools Commission. I should point out that the State committees were operating under great pressures of time. The decisions came quite late, later than I would have liked, for schools wishing to start in 1986. That was because the process of setting up the new committees, having them examine the applications and apply the new criteria took a longer time to complete than we had hoped. So there was pressure on the State committees to work very quickly. The Commission itself did not have the time, which I hope it will have in future, to add its advice to the advice coming from the State committees. The State committee advice went to the Commission and the Commission passed it on to me.

When I consulted my Cabinet colleagues about these proposals, obviously certain questions were asked about a number of these schools. In the particular case of Domremy College, I decided that I needed some additional information about the reason for its ranking in the low or lowest category as different information had been passed on directly to me by an officer of the Catholic Education Office in Sydney. Certainly it is the case that the honourable member for Lowe, Mr Maher, was very anxious about all the proposals in his electorate, not just that concerning Domremy, as were other local members. Some additional information was sent directly to me from the Catholic Education Office and in consideration of that additional information and of the very short time frame under which the State committees had to complete their task, I decided, as it is my prerogative to do so under the Act, that Domremy school fell within the approved guidelines for new non-government schools. The school was proposing an extension for years 11 and 12 of its operation. It is a very old school. My older sister went there as a young child so I know that it has been there for a long time. The particular support for the Domremy proposal in that area was from parents who wanted single sex education for their daughters. The St Mary's Rosebank proposal, which was recommended in the highest category, was to be co-educational for years 11 and 12, whereas the Domremy proposal was for a single sex. It was actually offering something different from Rosebank.

Given the additional information and the fact that the authorities involved in the administration of schools in that area seem not to be as one on the need of the relative claims of those schools, it seemed to me, after considering all the information I was able to get in a short time, that the fairer decision was to approve the school. That is how that decision was made.