By ERWIN CHLANDA
A row is brewing over plans for a $12m boarding facility planned to be added to the Aboriginal-run Yipirinya School.
NT Senator Jacinta Price, who sits with the Coalition, is pushing for the project, with the support of Shadow Education Minister Sarah Henderson.
But now ALP Member of Lingiari Marion Scrymgour has pointed out that Senator Price’s mother, Bess, a former CLP Member in the Territory Parliament, is the school’s assistant principal.
The school newsletter for Term 1 this year shows there are three assistant principals, Bess Price being one, specifically the Upper Primary Hub Coordinator, Language and Culture.
The Alice Springs News has asked Senator Price whether she has declared an interest. There was no mention of her mother’s position in a media release on the matter, issued this morning (28 April).
This point aside, Ms Scrymgour says: “I support a safe schooling facility for young people to live in and to keep them safe and off the streets.”
She says she does not disagree with Yipirinya principal Gavin Morris who wants the boarding facility attached to the school.
Dr Morris says the school has a strategy to expand for children “from birth to Year 12” and as a place where parents become employees and also stay at the school.
He says late last year the school had 23 students listed in Operation Lunar at the school. They were unsupervised, had come to the attention of authorities or were red flagged by authorities of being at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system.
“We have six students with locked-on anklets so their movements can be monitored by authorities.”
Ms Scrymgour says she doesn’t oppose a boarding facility but there “needs to be a broader community discussion.
“I have heard from others in the community that they would like it out of town, and on country.
“I also think it’s important this facility be accessible by a broad range of people – not just one school.
“At the moment I haven’t received a business case or feasibility study for the Yipirinya proposal – I’m happy to keep talking to Yipirinya about their project.”
Says Dr Morris: “Marion has had the proposal for more than six months. I’ve written to her in the last 24 hours. I want to work collaboratively.
“I spoke to Marion in person, prior to the election. [Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister] Linda Burney supports the idea. We have strong support from both sides of politics.
“We are not supporting a youth hostel where everyone can come and stay. That’s different to a boarding school” where students live, learn and play together.
Senators Price and Henderson are calling for “urgently needed funding” in the Federal Budget.
Senator Henderson, when asked by the News said: “This money must be provided in addition to the $250m Alice Springs funding package to combat youth crime.”
That funding is currently dealt with by “Regional Controller” Dorrelle Anderson (pictured) who will not answer this question the News put her: “What have been [your] major initiatives as the Regional Controller so far?”
A minder from the Department of Chief Minister and Cabinet told us: “The Central Australian Regional Controller is not accepting interview requests.”
The News has asked Ms Scrymgour to comment on Ms Anderson’s lack of transparency.
Senator Price says in a media release: “I am also deeply concerned by reports that [Ms Scrymgour] wants to unravel the school’s boarding school proposal and establish some sort of youth hostel in the centre of Alice Springs.
“Not only does Ms Scrymgour’s thought bubble fly in the face of the school’s evidence-based proposal, it has the potential to undermine the safety and security of students attending the school.”
Dr Morris, who took the job 18 months ago, says in that time the enrolment grew from 100 to 300.
Attendance is about 50%.
Yipirinya is one of the best equipped schools in Alice Springs, featuring an Olympic size swimming pool and an indoor sport stadium. Part of this was paid by philanthropists.
The purpose of Mr Albanese’s quarter of a billion dollars subsidy – in addition to the Feds’ massive ongoing expenditure in the region – was to fix the juvenile crime problem in Alice Springs.
When asked, Dr Morris said his “guesstimate” of the number of unsupervised kids is in the town is 60. That would make the Prime Minister’s handout $4.1m per child.
PHOTO AT TOP: Yipirinya School website.
UPDATE May 3 – Yipirinya sent the following message: We actually have a 25-metre swimming pool and a multi-purpose hall that is used for indoor sports as well as assemblies and drumming classes.