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Albanese Government must urgently fund Yipirinya School Alice Springs in Federal Budget

Joint media release

Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians
Senator the Hon Sarah Henderson, Shadow Minister for Education

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, and Shadow Minister for Education, Sarah Henderson, have called on the Albanese Government to deliver urgently needed funding for Yipirinya School in Alice Springs in the Federal Budget.

In May 2022, the Coalition committed to fund Yipirinya School’s on-site accommodation project to support more students attend and remain at school in a safe and secure environment.  (By reason of high inflation and escalating construction costs, this project is now costed at $12.1 million.)

Yipirinya School is the only school of its kind in Australia which teaches four Indigenous languages and English, attracting more than 300 students from Alice Springs and outlying communities, including children from surrounding town camps.

Yipirinya School principal, Gavin Morris, has pleaded for the Albanese Government to deliver this funding over many months.

As reported in The Australian on 26 April 2023, Mr Morris said many of his students were in crisis because they don’t feel safe enough to return home: “I’ve got kids coming to me and saying home life is that bad that they’d rather be in Owen Springs (juvenile detention) and in incarceration where they feel safer. We need support to make sure we get all these kids the support that they need.”

Senator Nampijinpa Price said: “The Coalition backed this vital project at Yipirinya School because it will provide Indigenous students with a safe and secure way to attend school.  For students who are living in dysfunctional or unsafe family environments, the option to board at Yipirinya School is life-changing.”

“I am also deeply concerned by reports that the Labor member for Lingiari 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,” Senator Nampijinpa Price said.

“I have confirmed today that Yipirinya School does not support Ms Scrymgour’s proposal and is seeking funding for on-site accommodation only so that students can be properly supervised and supported in a caring boarding school environment.”

“Last October I visited the school with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, calling for this funding to be delivered.  In February this year, I raised my concerns in Senate Estimates with the Department of Education and was advised the school may be able to apply for support under the $250 million Alice Springs funding package announced by the government,” Senator Nampijinpa Price said.

“The school has been strung along by this government for almost a year with no funding commitment which is totally unacceptable.”

“Why are the principal’s pleas falling on deaf ears?”  With a tripling of enrolments in the past 12 months, this school is doing the most incredible job under very difficult circumstances, given the level of dysfunction and instability in which so many students are living,” Senator Nampijinpa Price said.

Senator Henderson said on-site accommodation was a practical and important way to support the best possible learning environment for students living in and around Alice Springs.

“With less than a fortnight until the Federal Budget is handed down, Labor must ensure this funding is urgently delivered,” Senator Henderson said.

“The single most important action we can take to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians is to give them the best possible start in life, including a safe and supportive school environment,” Senator Henderson said.

“I am deeply concerned that the Albanese Government is attempting to undermine the school’s boarding school proposal which offers students the best possible environment in which to learn and thrive. The Minister for Education, Jason Clare, has been missing in action and it is time he stepped up and delivered the funding this school desperately requires.”

“The Coalition understands the enormous challenges of educating Indigenous children living in remote communities which is why we made this vital funding commitment.  The new accommodation facilities at the school will support students some of whom are travelling up to three hours a day by bus to go to school,” Senator Henderson said.

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