The Government’s cuts to the Education Budget have dominated the political landscape throughout January and February. I strongly object to any cuts, which will directly impact the education of WA children. While I welcomed the Premier’s announcement in January that the Government would reverse decisions regarding Schools of the Air and Gifted and Talented programs, a number of brutal cuts remain.
I am particularly concerned about the removal of positions within regional Aboriginal education support teams. These people currently deal with all aspects of Aboriginal education – from enrolments, uniforms, stationery and timetabling, to engagement, attendance and behaviour. It has taken 30 years to build support for Aboriginal education to its current level. Once these cuts take effect, it will leave the Pilbara, Midwest, Wheatbelt and Goldfields without any Aboriginal education staff.
I am very unhappy about the cessation of funding for Herdsman Lake Wildlife Centre. The centre has run on a shoestring budget for 34 years, thanks to the dedication of its amazing volunteers. It provides invaluable environmental education for children attending school in the Metropolitan area. Its current funding level is just $165,000. I have taken part in a number of rallies organised by a variety of stakeholders calling for a reversal to all cuts.
Meanwhile, despite the massive cuts to the Education budget, the Minister remains committed to the unpopular decision to fund the International School of Western Australia’s (ISWA) move from the City Beach High School site to the Doubleview Primary School site at a cost to the state of $21.6 million. The Government has said it will not re-open City Beach High School, but will move ISWA anyway. The Government will not say what it intends to do with the City Beach High School site and the community is understandably concerned that the land will be sold and in five or ten years’ time we will see another urgent need for a school, with no space available. We know that the surrounding areas will see substantial amount of infill in the medium and long-term future and I remain committed to seeing the City Beach High School site continues to be used for educational purposes.
Also in my Electorate, It has been nearly a year since submissions closed for the Public Environmental Review of the Ocean Reef Marina proposal. We are now waiting for the Environmental Protection Authority to provide their Report on the Assessment for the ocean elements of the design. I look forward to members’ feedback once the report is released.
There has been lots going on in my Corrective Services portfolio, most recently with the release of findings from Telethon Kids Institute research that 90% of young offenders held at Banksia Hill Detention Centre have at least one brain impairment. The findings paint a heartbreaking picture, but are an important step to better understanding the reasons these kids are offending in the first place. In January, Amnesty International called for the closure of the Intensive Support Unit (ISU) at Banksia Hill, pending an investigation into serious allegations of mistreatment and potential torture of teenagers held there. This further indicates that a youth justice system modelled on adult prisons is a recipe for disaster. I met with the Commissioner for Children and Young People Mr Colin Pettit to discuss the need for better protections for vulnerable children who access Youth Justice, Child Protection and Disability Services.
Elsewhere, the Joint Standing Committee on the Corruption and Crime Commission, of which I am a member, is currently undertaking an inquiry into public sector procurement of goods and services, and its vulnerability to corrupt practice. The inquiry includes investigation of the adequacy and nature of oversight mechanisms, policies and guidelines to prevent corruption and serious misconduct, whistleblowing protections, and potential reform to current legal and administrative practices to reduce the risk of corruption. This is very important work, as illustrated by the Auditor General’s 2017 report on public agencies’ tender processes and contract extensions, which found that most agencies needed to improve their procurement policies. I encourage those of you with an interest in this area to make a submission to the inquiry. Submissions are due to the committee by Thursday, 15 March 2018, and the Committee will report by April 2019.
My Select Parliamentary Committee into Elder Abuse has also been meeting and I also had the opportunity to attend the 5th National Elder Abuse Conference.
I have been making the most of the summer break from Parliament to meet with a large number of stakeholders which has greatly informed the development of my strategic plan for 2018. The Parliamentary schedule will be a full one when the Legislative Council sits again in March as there are many pieces of legislation to respond to. Most of it falls within my portfolio areas.
Header photo: ‘CWA rally’: I joined Country Women’s Assocation (CWA) members as they marched on Parliament for the first time in the organisation’s 94 year history, to protest cuts to Education in the regions. Jocasta Sibbel
Text photo: I met with the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Mr Colin Pettit, to discuss the need for better protections for young people and specifically the proposal to establish an independent advocate for children and young people in Western Australia. Arran Morton