AG E N DA
Public education in the Northern Territory is expected to get a boost following the change of government.
NT schools back on the agenda
f the new NT Labor government fulfils promises the party made during the recent election campaign, it will reverse cuts made by the previous Country Liberal Party government. The CLP government was handed $272 million in Gonski funds from Canberra but it came with no strings attached. As a result, much of the money ended up in consolidated revenue or in rebuilding infrastructure, rather than helping improve results for students, says Jarvis Ryan, AEU NT branch president. “Under the CLP government, none of that Gonski funding made a difference in schools. None of it was used to employ additional teachers or offer new programs. It was a huge waste of potential and money,” he says. 1 8 SU MM ER 2 0 1 6 AUSTR ALI A N E D U CATOR 92
To add insult to injury, the government also cut funding to schools by about 5 per cent over three years. Ryan says the most positive change for schools under the new government is the new education minister, Eva Lawler, who comes to the role with decades of experience in NT education. “She is a teacher, a former school principal and has been a senior executive in the department of education. She is working assiduously to visit schools to identify the main areas that need immediate attention,” he says. “She’s made it very clear that she wants a strong relationship with the union, the parents, lobbying groups, and COGSO (Council of Government School Organisations), and she wants to improve the culture in the education department.”
Labor pledged funds during the election campaign to employ an extra 165 teachers over four years as well as providing more for students with special needs. “We’re hoping we’ll see an immediate change at the beginning of next year, with more teachers and support staff,” says Ryan. The next step is to secure a commitment for Gonski funding from 2017 onwards, using the appropriate resourcing formula. “The hope is we can work towards a genuine needs-based funding model in the Northern Territory,” says Ryan. “We welcome Labor’s commitment to reverse the cuts but that’ll just restore funding to the levels of four years ago. We’ve seen significant inflation and wages growth since then. “That’s why this additional Gonski funding is absolutely critical, along with a strong commitment from the new government that all of that money will be spent in schools, funding teachers, staff and programs,” Ryan says.
Education’s bigger role Another major item on the new government’s agenda is the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory that followed an ABC Four Corners program about years of abuse in youth detention centres. The AEU will be making a submission to the inquiry and a number of members are expected to be called to appear. Ryan says it’s vital that the inquiry look more broadly at systemic disadvantage for Indigenous people. “For example, there’s been evidence presented that 80 per cent of juvenile