Where’s the money, Min­is­ter Mer­lino?

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - BY CO­RAL COOK­SLEY

BEECHWORTH Sec­ondary Col­lege coun­cil and the col­lege com­mu­nity con­tin­ues to be dis­mayed by the Vic­to­rian government’s fail­ure to make an un­am­bigu­ous fund­ing com­mit­ment for long over­due cap­i­tal works at the col­lege cam­pus.

The col­lege was one of six ru­ral and re­gional schools among 35 which shared in a $12 mil­lion state bud­get al­lo­ca­tion last year to meet the costs of scop­ing and plan­ning for ma­jor new build­ing and in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments.

This took Beechworth a step closer but the government ig­nored the school com­mu­nity’s needs in the cur­rent bud­get.

The last ma­jor im­prove­ments on the cam­pus were com­pleted a decade ago.

Col­lege coun­cil pres­i­dent Larry Goldswor­thy said stu­dents were still be­ing taught in sub­stan­dard de­mount­able class­rooms.

“It’s time the state government stopped treat­ing the stu­dents and staff of Beechworth Sec­ondary Col­lege as sec­ond class cit­i­zens,” he told the Ovens and Mur­ray Ad­ver­tiser last week.

“Our chil­dren are be­ing taught in 1960s-era de­mount­able build­ings and it has been go­ing on for too long, while other schools all around us have mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties.

“We need ac­tions and not words from our politi­cians.

“If you know or can write a let­ter to our Pre­mier, Trea­surer, Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion and local Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment then please do so – and keep re­mind­ing them that our kids mat­ter, too.”

“We need funds al­lo­cated to build the school that will set the foun­da­tion for the fu­ture ed­u­ca­tion needs of our chil­dren. The government has re­sponded to Ad­ver

tiser ques­tions with a bland state­ment. “Beechworth Sec­ondary Col­lege re­ceived fund­ing to start plan­ning an up­grade so that work can start the mo­ment fund­ing is de­liv­ered,” a spokesman for Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter James Mer­lino said late last week.

“Cap­i­tal works fund­ing will be con­sid­ered in fu­ture Bud­gets.”

The min­is­ter’s of­fice con­firmed that the depart­ment In 2012 had made a build­ing condi- tion as­sess­ment at ev­ery Vic­to­rian school and that this in­flu­enced when fund­ing up­grade de­ci­sions would be made.

Bill Tilley (MLA, Be­nam­bra) to the Ad­ver­tiser that he had again pitched for bricks-and­mor­tar fund­ing for the col­lege in the cur­rent bud­get but he feared the col­lege had be­come a vic­tim of po­lit­i­cal games.

“Dur­ing our time in government the-then ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Martin Dixon in­structed the depart­ment to con­duct an au­dit of all Vic­to­rian state schools,” he said.

“The the­ory was that it would take the pol­i­tics out of the de­ci­sion-mak­ing by pri­ori­tis­ing schools with the great­est need, rather than try­ing to win votes.”

Mr Tilley said Beechworth Sec­ondary Col­lege had at the time been” very high” on the list of Be­nam­bra elec­torate schools need­ing cap­i­tal works.

“Those schools above Beechworth have now been funded or at least promised money, ad­mit­tedly and dis­ap­point­ingly in some cases two and three years down the track,” he said.

“If that list re­mains cur­rent ei­ther Beechworth or Wodonga Mid­dle Years’ Huon cam­pus should be the next pri­or­ity but what we are hear­ing sug­gests that’s not the case.”

Col­lege prin­ci­pal Pa­tri­cia Broom said she hoped funds for con­struc­tion would be made avail­able in next year’s bud­get – for the 201819 fi­nan­cial year.

She said she had worked with the government-ap­pointed ar­chi­tects DWP Suters in the plan­ning process and plans for the cam­pus im­prove­ments had now been fi­nalised.

In a school visit last Oc­to­ber – when fur­ther fund­ing looked promis­ing – Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Mer­lino said a great ed­u­ca­tion started with state-of-the-art fa­cil­i­ties.

“It stim­u­lates stu­dents and en­cour­ages them to be cre­ative,” he said.

When the government does make a clear fund­ing com­mit­ment then two new build­ings will be con­structed – one for sci­ence, food tech­nol­ogy, per­form­ing arts and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy teach­ing and study and the sec­ond for a can­teen.

PHOTO: Co­ral Cook­sley

DIS­MAYED: Beechworth Sec­ondary Col­lege stu­dents Sar­war Hus­sain (left), Tom Chris­te­sen, Ri­ley Goldswor­thy, Holly Borschman, Mor­gan Lup­son, Indigo Rowe and col­lege coun­cil pres­i­dent Larry Goldswor­thy are dis­grun­tled that the cam­pus has con­tin­ued to miss out on des­per­ately-needed cap­i­tal works fund­ing.

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