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HomeIssue 43Government will listen to communities' wishes on schools, says Lambley

Government will listen to communities' wishes on schools, says Lambley

‘Particular social and cultural needs’ will be supported
How will the Country Liberal Government create change in the bush? After the unsparing picture painted by Minister for Indigenous Advancement Alison Anderson, Deputy Chief Minister Robyn Lambley got to her feet in the Legislative Assembly, focussing her remarks on her Education and Children’s Services portfolio. There is not much detail yet but she did indicate that there won’t be ‘a one size fits all’ approach.
Government will listen, she said, an oft-repeated theme of the first sittings, before making this commitment: “If the community believes a unique and peculiar model of education needs to be established within their communities to meet their particular social and cultural needs, we will support that in any way we can. Of course, they will be required to go through a rigorous requirement regime. It is never easy to set up a school, but we will support and assist them to set up the types of school they think their children and their families need.”
She quoted from the Council of Australian Governments’ 2011 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan about “school community partnerships … tailored to the individual needs and aspirations of each community … based on shared responsibilities”.
“It is not just about having the rights and demanding from government this, that, and the other; it is about taking responsibility and forming a partnership,” she said, before going on to cite some examples (which of course pre-date her government’s term, as Labor MLA for Nhulunbuy, Lynne Walker pointed out).
With respect to improving attendance, she spoke about the initiative at Gunbalanya in Arnhem Land to change the school year so that school is held over the traditionally wet months of December and January, a time when travel is limited because of flood waters. The  decision was made “in consultation and partnership with the school, parents, and the wider community”. Ms Lambley said the community has asked to continue the flexible school year in 2013 and she quoted Term 3 figures showing “a small … but a significant improvement” in student attendance, from 128 in 2010 to 147 in 2012.
Other collaborative approaches included opening schools up for community uses, such as “financial literacy, driver education, basketball, and even Zumba dancing”, the Three to Nine program which occurs in a number of schools, making them “more welcoming places for many parents who may not have otherwise had anything to do with the school”.
The Families as First Teacher program also got a mention, as did Strong Start, Bright Future colleges, both described in general terms.
Ms Lambley also referred to lessons that can be learned “from some of the initiatives that are occurring, for example in Cape York”: “Momentum cannot be lost when a principal moves on or when a significant elder passes. We need a sustainable and supported governance model, one that reflects the true wishes and voice of the community.”
Mapping of jobs on communities
She commended Ms Anderson’s focus on jobs and said she has asked the Department of Education and Children’s Services to work with the Department of Business to map the present and future jobs in towns and communities: “This work has already begun. I have been heartened by the lengths that the Department of Education and Children’s Services have gone to with mining companies, the pastoral sector, the tourism sector and with local communities to prioritise these jobs for local students. An example includes the strong partnership at West Arnhem College with Energy Resources Australia which provides job guarantees for senior secondary students, work experience and apprenticeships.”
On this topic, she also referred to the Department of Education and Children’s Services “new industry academy”, again an initiative predating her government, a “virtual Academy”, according to the department’s website, a “network of embedded trainers who will be based in schools”.
On the educational needs of very young children, Ms Lambley said: “School principals realise that a clear focus on the zero-to-four-year-old group in their community is essential. They will play a stronger role in coordinating with the community and programs that support this space.”
This is where she sees the “joined up effort” of the Department of Education and Children’s Services and the Office of Children and Families as coming to the fore and Commonwealth backing as essential.
“Above all else we need our kids to go to school and we need everyone to pull their weight in making this happen. This is everyone’s business. School attendance is a priority. We cannot contemplate another generation of young people who should be the leaders, but are largely unemployable. Together we can do this. To drive this change I will be taking the Stronger Futures initiative and setting up trials with community input that will lead to communities driving a Stronger Future.”
Source: Daily Hansard


  1. One of the most important things about working effectively in the bush is the networks, linkages and policies across multiple agencies. Interesting that Minister Lambley claims that she “doesn’t get” what peak bodies are about, and is threatening to take funding away from the council of social services. As well her govt is claiming that the shires have “too many staff” on remote communities, in which I can only imagine she is referring to community services, which includes childrens services and after schoolcare. If she doesn’t understand the value in a peak body like NTCOSS developing policies and creating networks and organising forums for collaboration of servies, she shouldn’t be in the job.
    To me, it smells of typical Liberal politics of silencing the informed voices who might raise well informed issues and policies so that the party can dictate its own political agenda across the policy spectrum. Here we go again…


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