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Home Issue 5 Government stonewalls questions about children's education

Government stonewalls questions about children’s education

By JULIUS DENNIS

While the ministers responsible are stonewalling enquiries from the Alice Springs News, the level of education being received by more than 100 Aboriginal children enrolled in the private Yipirinya School, which has a government appointed manager, is unclear.

Sources speaking on the promise of anonymity have spoken of a flawed school culture that does not lead to good educational outcomes for the students, where staff members were bullied by colleagues, and student attendance is minimal.

Questions posed by the News to the statutory manager of the school, Margaret Fenbury, have continued to go unanswered.

As reported by the News, leaked documents paint an unclear image of leadership at the school which has operated in and around Alice Springs for over 40 years. 

Among the findings was possible unconstitutional decision making by management committee members, and the skipping of constitutionally required AGMs in 2018 and 2019, where elections for management committees take place. 

Additionally, allegedly shambolic administrative practices lead to grant money and funding having to be returned.

The radio silence leaves the public in the dark regarding exactly what “financial and governance issues,” (which presumably are the grounds for the appointment of a statutory manager by the Department of Industry Tourism and Trade), are, and what steps are being taken to remedy them. 

The lack of cooperation by Ms Fenbury, who has previously worked as a principal, has forced us to climb the ladder. 

The following questions were put to Ms Fenbury and the NT Minister for Education Lauren Moss via email yesterday.

How much money is owed by the school and who is this money owed to?

Documents have suggested that the number of students on the school’s census in the past has been incorrect, how many students are currently enrolled at the school and at what rate of attendance?

How many teachers and teachers aids are currently employed by the school?

How long do you (Margaret Fenbury) expect to be acting as a statutory manager for the Yipirinya School?

What are your goals that will signify you have finished the job at hand?

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (DITT), who appointed you as Statutory Manager for the school says that you will remain in the role until “financial and governance issues have been resolved”: What are the specific governance issues you are dealing with?

Will members of the old committee be allowed to run for leadership positions at the school once a new management committee can be chosen?

Lastly, why has this appointment fallen under DITT? Surely the financial and governance issues of school fall within the purview of the Department of Education. 

The News is yet to hear from Ms Fenbury, but has received correspondence from the minister’s office which is merely regurgitating details already reported or known:

“The following can be attributed to a spokesperson for the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade.

“Yipirinya School is a non-government school and Yipirinya School Council Incorporated is an association under the Northern Territory Associations Act 2003 (the Act). The Act is administered by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade.

“Margaret Fenbury was appointed the Statutory Manager under the Act. The Statutory Manager replaces the management committee of the association.

“The Statutory Manager is there to support the administration of the school and ensure the continued delivery of education programs.

“The intention is for a new management committee to form and take over from the statutory manager once financial and governance issues have been resolved.

“Further details remain confidential while the Statutory Manager is in place,” says the statement.

PHOTOS: Yipirinya School website.

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