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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1920

Mr WOOD (La Trobe) (10:52): Today I would like bring the attention of the House to Berwick secondary college and especially to their need for a health and wellbeing centre. First of all, I congratulate principal Kerri Bolch and her wellbeing team. Kerry has been an absolutely staunch supporter of this project. I have visited the school and I am a strong advocate for this project.

Berwick College is located in city of Casey, which is Victoria's fastest growing city, and has nearly 1,600 students. In this area there are, sadly, very high rates of family violence and extensive use of ice, marijuana and alcohol. The college principal tells me that the school nurse treats an amazing 2,250 students each year, which is quite incredible, for a wide range of medical issues, including mental health, self-harm, anxiety, asthma, anaphylaxis, diabetes, epilepsy management and injuries. Stress is a big issue for many students, causing changes in brain development and hindering learning. Currently, the nurse and supporting staff operate out of a very small facility that gives no privacy and is often very crowded. I have seen this location myself. It is obviously not good enough to be treating students who need special care and attention. I must congratulate the staff for what they are doing at the school, and especially Kerri and her team for advocating for such an important project.

Berwick College proposes to address these problems with the introduction of a Berwick community learning and support centre, which will provide health and wellbeing support for their students, staff, past students, families and members of the community. It will address issues in our electorate such as social cohesion and respectful relationships and will be supported by specialist partnerships between the local education and medical communities. Students will be able to access programs that aim to improve their self-worth and teach them life skills, both within and outside school hours. I believe they are trying to team up with St John of God Berwick Hospital, South-Eastern Private Hospital, Rotary club, headspace and, of course, the college itself.

The project will cost in the vicinity of $1.2 million. I note that in the last state election the Liberal member for Gembrook, Brad Battin, committed funding for this project. It wasn't matched by Labor. At the same time, I acknowledge that we need to form a partnership with the federal level and the state. The students' needs must come first. The school is doing an incredible job. You just have to walk up to the main office. There are plaques remembering, sadly, students and teachers who've taken their own lives. We must work together to get this resolved.