Education Minister in Yirara cover-up


p2006PeterChandler2By ERWIN CHLANDA
Education Minister Peter Chandler (pictured) has rejected an offer from two teachers to meet with him in person and give him detailed, first-hand information about problems at Yirara College.
The two highly experienced teachers provided much of the information for several of eight reports in the Alice Springs News Online which unleashed a storm of public comments, more than 80 of which provided in writing (see readers’ comment boxes below each report).
The teachers, who spoke to the News on the condition of not being named, yesterday offered to meet with Mr Chandler in person, on the condition that he kept confidential their identities.
One of the teachers, who worked at Yirara last year, even offered to travel to the NT to meet with Mr Chandler.
However, today his minder told the News: “A review is now underway. It would be inappropriate for the Minister to have any discussions that may pre-empt the findings.”
Yesterday the News, having received a tip-off that a departmental inspection may be under way, we emailed the minder, asking:-
• Was it unannounced?
• How many of the enrolled children were present?
• How many classrooms were visited?
• How many teacher were interviewed?
• Did those interviews occur in a one-one-one confidential manner?
• Or were the upper echelon people present?
• What was observed by the inspectors?
• How long were they on site?
• Any other things you may find relevant.
This was all the minder said in her response yesterday: “An assessment of the school is underway today and tomorrow. A report will be provided to the CE by the end of March.”
Meanwhile sources the teachers have within the college have told them that many troublemakers had been removed from the school before the departmental inspection yesterday and today.
“Apparently many of the troublesome kids were sent home after a shocking day Tuesday,” the teachers were told
The contacts in the college also told them that Lutheran Schools Association executive John Proeve was at Yirara on March 3 “and it was chaos”.
Meanwhile two dozen questions the News has put to Bishop John Henderson, the head of the Lutheran Church, on March 2 have still not been answered.


  1. Very interesting to read all the stories and comments on the current controversy surrounding Yirara College.
    Our family was resident on the AIB Farm (Arid Zone Research Institute) from 1967 to 1975, and then next door at the CSIRO Field Station (now Centre for Appropriate Technology) until 1988.
    From both locations I was a student that attended the OLSH Primary School (today’s Bath Street campus) and the Alice Springs High School (now Centralian Middle School).
    Thus we were living opposite the site of what became Yirara College in the early 1970s. In some years the school bus route included Yirara College, from where substantial numbers of students attended classes at the Alice Springs High School. There were also teachers (resident at Yirara) who taught these students at ASHS, as I recall.
    My memory of the Yirara students of those early years is completely positive. They were all good kids and I had no trouble getting on with them, despite our completely different backgrounds. Many went on to gain useful employment in their adult life, including some working for the NT Police.
    My siblings and I were in the unusual situation (for Alice Springs) of being in the racial minority for all students living along the south Stuart Highway (including St Mary’s Children’s Village, just up the road from us).
    That was in the 1970s. In the 1980s Yirara College became a byword for a bad reputation in Alice Springs. Control of Yirara College had been transferred from the Commonwealth to the NT Government following the granting of Self-Government in 1978 (if my memory serves me correct, the NT Government didn’t get full responsibility for education until 1979).
    The situation became so bad that the NT Government took the opportunity of washing its hands of full responsibility for Yirara College as one of the measures for cost-cutting, following recommendations made by the NT Government’s Expenditure Review Committee report of 1991, by transferring control of the college to the Lutheran Church in 1992.
    As far as I’m aware, the situation settled down again at Yirara College under the new regime, which appears to be confirmed by some of the comments of former teachers in the various Alice Springs News Online reports. The latest reports indicate the situation at Yirara College has gone full circle and has deteriorated to an alarming level. One wonders what can be done, not just to retrieve this apparent dismal situation but to prevent the cycle from continuously repeating in future.


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