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HomeVolume 28$12m school row: hostel or boarding facility?

$12m school row: hostel or boarding facility?

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.”

Yipirinya School

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.

10 COMMENTS

  1. It appears Mr Morris likes to play free and loose with the truth. It would be very interested to put these questions to him.
    Of the quoted 300 students how many are “real”?
    In achieving 50% attendance are you telling us 150 attend each day on average?
    Has your staffing increased threefold to well over 100 during your tenure? What are your current staffing levels?
    How many of your new staff have the requisite clearances?
    This one was put to him in a Sky News interview with Sharri last Thursday: “Is it true that some days you have more teachers turn up to school than students?”
    Response (sitting up abruptly in chair): “I refute that, it may have been the case when I first started and there were only 25 to 30 children.”
    A better question could be: “Have there been any days this year when student attendance exceeded staff attendance?”
    Yipirinya, I’m told, receives $41,000 per student. Government primary schools $11,000 (some variable factors here).
    At the risk of stating the obvious, this is why the numbers game is so critical: 300 students at Yip = $12.3m.
    One only has to google “Gavin Morris NRL rugby referee” to question his suitability to lead any school.
    [ED – The Alice Springs News spoke to Dr Morris on Sunday about this comment and yesterday invited him by email to to respond to it. We gave him a deadline of noon today, when we published Mr Mcloughlin’s reader’s comment. We’ve had no response from Dr Morris but will publish it should we receive one. Our intention had been for Mr Mcloughlin’s comment and any response from Dr Morris to appear at the same time.]

  2. Yipirinya School should demonstrate accountability for the massive funding it already receives before more is provided.
    At the heart of the problem of accountability is that Yipirinya is a family school.
    It employs about 20 teachers and a staggering 55 non teaching staff.
    By comparison it employs more non teaching staff that Yirara College which is a boarding school and in charge of students full time rather than just school hours.
    Interesting to know what all these Yipirinya non teaching staff do on a day to day basis?
    Adding to the accountability question is that the school is not registered under ORIC [Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations] but under the old Corporations Act and so much less subject to scrutiny.
    Who will be the main beneficiaries of the new initiative aimed at accommodating staff and students?
    PS: Last year’s NAPLAN data says attendance is 31% not 50%.

  3. If the Price family is involved with this project, that’s good news. They need people who will provide structure and discipline.
    Also need to be resilient to wokeism and its insidious influence on Indigenous communities.

  4. Okay. So youth crime in Alice Springs is so bad. As a result to rectify this us tax payers are paying 4.1 million dollars per troubled youth?
    Sounds rather excessive to me. 🤫

  5. I am in support of of a boarding school for learning, where young people can go home on weekends, where parents can actively involved in the school activities and participation.
    I am from a non-English speaking background. I have work experience as a contractor working for DEET – ATSIEU. My role was providing support in students LL and N needs and beyond.
    After this time, I travelled and still do working in any work I can get to see Australia.
    I come across older ang younger adults who went to boarding schools in different states and cities in their life and discussed why, where it stopped for them.
    Isolation, loneliness, not enough support, and the language barrier come in the way.
    While there were Aboriginal people become successful there were those who did not cope being away from home.
    There are mothers who has sons and daughters in boarding school I met this time.
    They are hopeful, speaking of their children to succeed.
    I am currently working in Utopia, there is a mother here already planning ahead, once her daughters reached a certain school age she wants to place them in boarding school.
    She, herself went to boarding school now she has a job where I am cleaning the clinic, she realises that the future of her daughters is possible by going to boarding school.
    Like I said, I want to see the vast Australian landscape and only through working in remote communities. I enjoy its beauty, meeting also the many First Nations People and learning their culture.
    I hope the boarding School is something where Parents and Children will be greatly supported. While, everybody is Aboriginal it does not mean everyone has the same in needs, everybody is culturally different in life’s perspectives.
    Many were vulnerable, even for white people who come to the cities, the bright lights attracts them, destroys them when not guided.
    These are just a few thoughts I want to share. Thank you.
    Nina – virginiareynolds@hotmail.com

  6. Another taxpayer money fest instead of dealing with the problem. The government is again throwing huge amounts at the result.
    Uphold the law, install huge amounts of defence personnel to bring law, order and respect … not a nursery for black kids that misbehave.
    Nothing for white kids in the same situation of course. That’s not discrimination, is it?

  7. Anything Jacinta Price suggest is good with me. Whether it’s 35% or 59% school attendance it’s fewer kids on the streets and having a large % of parents involved with the school helps counter loneliness they may have.
    We have to start somewhere; let this be a role model for other communities / schools to follow.
    Beware of government influence trying to introduce wokeism. Price will be a strong voice against this destructive philosophy.
    If Price’s mother is a present teacher that’s a good thing. Not only is she well educated she’s well respected amongst the Indigenous community. She’s knows them better than some political academic squawk.

  8. How stupid can a person be wanting to move building out in the country and taking on any teenager that wants a free feed and bed? It should be used for young students to ensure safety and education and attendance, with education and attendance the priority.

  9. Mmmm I think the school principal Gavin needs to do his home work.
    The swimming pool and the hall was granted by the Rudd Commonwealth Government splash for cash Capital Works program. (Pink Bat Days.)
    The swimming pool was poorly built and after seven years the tiles lifted throughout the pool. (Same issue Alice Springs Town Council had as they used the same pool builder).
    ABA grant funding paid to repair the pool. ABA funding gave the school new renovated classrooms, verandas, bathrooms, paving, undercover parking, bitumen area, solar system, culture language building, two buses, two vehicles and a ute. None of which you Mr Morris did.
    Stating philanthropists paid for it is BS.
    The person that got the school all the updates mentioned above and did the grant applications was a lady named Elizabeth Dubois. Last I checked she was not a philanthropist.

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