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Thursday, 28 November 1985
Page: 2530


Senator REID(10.30) —Tonight I want to raise a matter concerning the Friends of the Introductory English Centre which has been operating from the Telopea Park School for some time. Apparently a decision has been made that that Centre will be moved from there and certain consequences flow from this. The reason apparently is that the School of Music wishes to reclaim that accommodation, and certainly the School of Music used it in the past. That has caused some amazement amongst those who are concerned with the Introductory English Centre because the School of Music has its own multi-million dollar building which is not very old. I think these people are somewhat amazed that the School of Music has been allowed to expand and to take back this accommodation. One might ask: Why can it not go somewhere else? As a matter of fact, I heard earlier this year that there was a threat to the Introductory English Centre. After I made some inquiries about what was to happen I was told that the School of Music was to be given a wing of the Cook Primary School. As I understand it, the Cook Primary School was certainly not unhappy about that because its numbers had changed to such an extent that that amount of space would be available and, therefore, the Introductory English Centre would be able to stay in the most suitable premises that it occupies at Telopea Park School.

It transpires that this is not the case. Information has leaked out in the last 10 days or so that the Introductory English Centre is to be moved and that the building is to be returned to the School of Music. I think there are good reasons for saying that this centre ought to stay there. Given that it is to move, I find it incredible that a decision has been made to split this centre in two. Apparently there are normally about 80 students at the Centre, which is not very many. Each student attends for about two terms and then moves into the ordinary school system or to a school which has English as a special language as a supplementary course. There are three groups-beginning, intermediate and advanced. If it is split into two we will have two groups of about 40, each with these three small groupings. I would have thought that, in this day and age, the financial realities were such that the economy of scale would be to keep it in one building. If a centre of that sort is split into two it will be more costly to run.

I have heard it suggested that in part the Centre will go to a portion of the Woden Valley High School and in part to a portion of the Watson High School. The Watson High School must be one of the saddest things that anyone could see. It has been in difficulties with the removal of asbestos for just on two years. It is in an absolute shambles. How the principal and teachers manage to maintain morale and to run a school in those conditions is just about beyond me. I admire them tremendously for the work they are attempting to do in the most impossible of conditions. To send these students there would be a pity. Watson High School ought to be repaired and brought back to a decent condition. As I have said, what I find incredible is this splitting of the Centre, and splitting the costs just seems remarkable. If the Centre cannot stay at Telopea Park School, and I suggest that it should, at least we should have it in one place so that we do not add enormously to the costs.

In other respects in Canberra, in the health area in particular, we have been making an effort to economise. Paediatric services were all moved to the Canberra Hospital so that we could have good paediatric services there. Cancer treatment is based at the Woden Valley Hospital. It seems that, in the health area, there is a concept for a small community such as this to run things in one place and not to split them, but this is not the case in the education system. It is either that or else it just is not being given the priority it ought to have. One suggestion was that the Centre is really run for diplomats. That, of course, is absurd. I think there are about 13 members of the diplomatic community in the group. Many of them are cooks and employees of embassies and not the diplomats themselves. In any event, if they are going to be in Australia for several years they need some assistance with their language.

It seems to me to be a decision that has been made not with the best interests of the Introductory English Centre at heart. I suggest that this matter should be re-examined, firstly with a view to the Centre staying at Telopea Park and, secondly, that it should at least be in one place and not split into two. For the benefit of these students, for the company and companionship they can give to each other, and for a whole range of reasons, I think that is the appropriate course. I ask the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh), who is at the table, whether he will allow me to incorporate in Hansard documents he has not seen. The first is a letter written by the Secretary of the Friends of the Introductory English Centre to the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan), dated 26 November, and sets out the resolutions of a meeting. The second is a letter from Mrs Valerie Smith to the Minister for Education, dated 20 November. The third is the text of a telegram from the Indo-China Refugees Association, also to the Minister for Education, in which views are expressed as to why this change should not occur. If the Minister agrees, I would like to incorporate these documents in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The documents read as follows-

FRIENDS OF THE INTRODUCTORY ENGLISH CENTRE

Telopea Park School,

BARTON A.C.T. 2600

26 November, 1985

Senator the Hon. Susan Ryan,

Minister for Education,

Parliament House,

CANBERRA A.C.T. 2600

Dear Senator Ryan,

At a special meeting of the Friends of the Introductory English Centre held today, it was unanimously agreed:

1. That members wholeheartedly support the decision taken by the Staff of the Centre that the present buildings in Barton should be retained for the Introductory English Centre;

2. That any move away from this location would seriously disadvantage present and future students and be detrimental to their educational program;

3. That accommodation be increased by the alteration of some buildings and/or use of demountables, and that toilet facilities be upgraded;

4. That members deplore the lack of community consultation prior to the reported ministerial decision;

5. That the Minister be requested to reverse the decision-as all the educational submissions support the retention of the Centre as a single unit, physically separate from (but philosophically attached to) the Telopea Park School, and with easy access to that host school's facilities;

6. That the suggestion of alternative accommodation within two high schools is unacceptable;

7. That alternative accommodation be sought for the School of Music.

Yours sincerely,

FUSIEUKOWSKI

Secretary

Friends of the Introductory

English Centre

15 Hann Street,

Griffith A.C.T.

2603

20 November, 1985

Senator the Hon. Susan Ryan,

Minister for Education,

Paraliament House,

Canberra A.C.T. 2600

Dear Senator Ryan,

THE INTRODUCTORY ENGLISH CENTRE TELOPEA PARK SCHOOL

It is now no longer a secret, discussed behind closed doors, that the School of Music has made a bid for the use of the buildings housing the Introductory English Centre at Telopea Park School, Barton.

The purpose of this letter is to ask why the School of Music, which has its own multi-million dollar purpose-built building, has reached the exalted state of achieving a ministerial decision (which will result in the ousting of probably the most important educational programme currently operating in the ACT) and to examine some of the options which should have been the subject of community consultation long before a ministerial decision was made.

I am a member of the Friends of the Introductory English Centre at Telopea Park School. We have supported the Centre for many years-emotionally, physically and philosophically-because we care about what happens to the new settlers who come to this city. We believe in the well-espoused philosophy of the Centre and are proud of its success. Are we to see all this routed? Are we to see the already advantaged gain more advantages, and the already disadvantaged again disadvantaged by upheaval and disruption?

I put it to you that there are many people in the community who will condemn such an action, which is ill-conceived and perpetrated with indecent haste and lack of thought for the community which is affected by such a decision-ultimately the whole of the ACT, in fact.

I acknowledge that a decision re accommodation must be made . . . but for the Centre . . . not the music school. Our numbers are increasing-such is the measure of the Centre's success.

I am informed that several options have been presented to the decision-makers and I propose to examine them-from my point of view:

Option 1: Retain the buildings for the Introductory English Centre, with its `attachment' to Telopea Park School.

Advantages: Obvious-retention of the Centre's character, ease of access, lack of disruption etc.

Requirements: Demountables and plumbing work.

Option 2: Division of the Centre and re-location-north and south. (Whoever suggested this must be living in the dark ages).

A large proportion of our students come already from divided countries, divided families. They have already suffered dislocation and re-location-and now the spectre of separation or partition. This is unthinkable. Are our students to be shuffled around again? This will perpetuate the flotsam and jetsam attitude which exists in the minds of some backward-thinking Australians.

Option 3: Re-location in a proper school building? What about a purpose-built school for our students? Our numbers are (and will be) as large or larger than some of the small schools in and around Canberra . . . centrally located, of course.

Failing this, I urge you to consider (after consultation with those of us in the community who know about these things) the possibility of a dignified re-location. By that I mean where there is no danger of a ghetto-where the numbers of ``Aussie'' versus ``others'' could be equal. Where all students can come together with a ``one-school'' philosophy (as now exists at Telopea). To re-locate our students at the end of a corridor in a school which has several hundred socially-integrated students thundering around at the other end of the corridor would be a cruel and inhumane decision. You, Senator, as a former teacher would know exactly what I mean.

I will also take this opportunity to draw you attention to the commitment of the Australian Labor Party as set out in the Platform Constitution and Rules, 1984 regarding education in the wide community sense as under:

Page 52-8 Education-A Objectives Labor believes education should ``. . . Develop respect for the equal rights of all people, their essential humanity, their language and culture, and actively remove discrimination based on ethnic origin, race, sex, age, religion, political belief or economic circumstance.''

``. . . Provide funding to enable a breadth of education provision in keeping with the principle of equality of educational opportunity and the goal of more equal educational outcomes across the community and the *principle of need''. (*my emphasis).

Page 54-B The role of the Australian Government . . . ``Accordingly, a Labor Government will . . . 3 Give priority when assisting both government and non-government schools to those which are disadvantaged . . .''.

Page 58-F Primary &Secondary Education . . .``The need to give priority to action to overcome all forms of educational disadvantage, including those resulting from socio-economic or ethnic background, gender, disability or isolation.''

Page 61-H Ethnic and Multi-cultural Education A Labor Government will-``. . . 50 Recognise and support the special needs of minority groups, refugees and recent arrivals.''

Senator, I question the advice that has been given to you from some quarters. I don't think, from my information, that this advice has been even-handed. The Platform statements above just touch on the sensitivity of the issues raised earlier in my letter. Much more remains to be said.

In conclusion, I am most disappointed that the lack of community consultation has made, yet again, a mockery of the spirit and the letter of the A.C.T. Schools Authority philosophy of community involvement and participation in decision-making, so loudly trumpeted over the last eleven years.

I await your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Valerie Smith (Mrs)

Senator Susan Ryan,

Minister of Education,

Parliament House, Canberra, ACT

Strong rumours circulating regarding the future of the Introductory English Centre Telopea Park. Community consultation imperative before decision made. Splitting the centre not advisable. Community backlash likely. Solution to present overcrowding and apparent rumoured resumption of current premises by school of music could be utilisation of facilities at Watson High. Repeat consultative meeting with interested parties imperative. Request your immediate attention to convene such a meeting.

Marion Le

President of the Indo China Refugees Association (A.C.T.)


Senator REID —I thank the Senate. The letters speak for themselves. I could go on but I see no point in doing so. I hope that this decision will be reviewed.