Danica De Giorgio: Calls are mounting for the federal government to explain why no funding has been allocated to build crucial Aboriginal schools in the Northern Territory. Hopes for a satellite school 60km north of Alice Springs at Burt Creek, which would allow Indigenous children to attend school on their land, have been dashed. Plans for two boarding schools in Arnhem Land are also in limbo after missing out on funding. The Albanese Government has pledged $40 million in education funding to help combat rising youth crime in the region but most has gone to government schools. The opposition argues the money should be prioritised for schooling in the most vulnerable and disengaged Indigenous communities. For more on this, I’m now joined live by the Shadow Education Minister, Senator Sarah Henderson. Thank you so much for joining us. You’ve written to the Education Minister, Jason Clare, what are you calling for?
Senator Henderson: Danica, a very good morning to you. I’m calling for the government to deliver the $40 million for Central Australian schools, as it promised to do, and that was to lift school attendance and deliver programs which combated youth crime in Alice Springs. You might remember back in February $250 million was announced as part of the community safety response by the government, we had to drag the Prime Minister kicking and screaming to make that announcement, but $40 million was to go to local schools, including schools like Yipirinya, which has had some enormous challenges with many disengaged and disadvantaged students. So the schools were expecting to get just under $1 million each, 46 schools, $40 million. But in fact some of the schools like Yipirinya, received only a couple of hundred thousand dollars and other schools, which frankly didn’t need it, received up to $3.1 million. The point is that Jason Clare has dropped the ball. He’s provided this funding to plug the Northern Territory’s Gonski funding gap rather than deliver the funding for what it was intended and that is to combat community crime in Alice Springs.
Danica De Giorgio: Would the implementation of a Voice to Parliament actually help get these schools the crucial funding that they need?
Senator Henderson: Well absolutely not, because it’s clear the Albanese Government has no interest in listening to voices in remote communities. Of course we know about the two Indigenous boarding schools that have been axed by this government, we revealed that a number of weeks ago, in East Arnhem Land and also in the Pilbara and now of course there’s another satellite school that Yipirinya wanted to build at Burt Creek in a very remote community. And again, this government has turned its back on some of the most disadvantaged Indigenous children in the country. The Government is all about dividing this nation on the Voice, not about uniting the nation, and this is yet another example.
Danica De Giorgio: You mentioned youth crime, and we do know that is a particular issue in Central Australia. How is funding for one or only a few of the independent schools in that area going to change the current situation? Is it not deeper than just the schools?
Senator Henderson: It absolutely is deeper than the schools, but part of the $250 million, which is $40 million, was going to go to local schools. So Yipirinya and a number of other schools have had some major issues. This was all about keeping kids at school Danica, keeping them off the streets and in some cases out of jail. And Yipirinya for instance, has had some very challenging issues, many kids are not going to school, some of them are travelling up to three hours a day just to get to school, which is untenable. There was a wonderful proposal to build a satellite school 60km north of Alice Springs in Burt Creek, which would have got more kids going to school and off the streets. So as I say, the Prime Minister and Education Minister Jason Clare have really dropped the ball, they have absolutely turned their backs on some of the Indigenous kids that most need the government’s help.
Danica De Giorgio: Sarah Henderson, we have to leave it there. Appreciate you joining us this morning.