Further to this morning's post about this afternoon's rally and forthcoming events in support of Ballerrt Moorop College, I am publishing this letter which outlines how the College sees the difficulties and why it is standing its ground in face of political and bureaucratic onslaught.
Hon. Jeanette Powell, MP
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
5 Vaughan Street
Shepparton, Victoria, 3630
I write to you in response to the State Government’s recent proposal to demolish a significant component of Glenroy’s Ballerrt Mooroop College, a pathways school established to provide individualised assistance and support to 12-16 year old Koorie students at risk of disengagement from education, employment and social networks in Victoria. In order to establish the new Glenroy Specialist School in 2011, I understand that the removal of Ballerrt Mooroop’s gymnasium and ceremonial grounds has been scheduled for December the 17th.
However, I am deeply concerned about this current proposal due to a number of reasons, as outlined below.
The inappropriateness of merging this dedicated Koorie school with other educational institutes, whether this be mainstream education or, in the case of the proposed Glenroy Specialist School, other forms of specialist education-
The very purpose of Ballerrt Mooroop College is to provide an environment that is specific to the individual needs of Koorie youth who continue to experience issues with identity, acceptance, belonging, support and isolation today, all of which are the roots of antisocial behaviour among Aboriginal communities. A vital aspect of such environment is the presence of exclusively Aboriginal students. This allows vulnerable Koorie students to feel a sense of belonging and connection as a result of being surrounded by those who share similar cultural backgrounds and hardships. Through the school’s culturally sensitive education, Koorie students are able to unite and reconnect with their culture which has been fragmented by political and social oppression. As a result, these displaced and disengaged individuals are able to regain a sense of identity and belonging, both of which are necessary for optimal mental health and wellbeing. This, along with the resilience skills gained from Ballerrt Mooroop College, will aid later transition into mainstream education and society.
The State Government’s proposal which will result in Ballerrt Mooroop College becoming
a shared site with the Glenroy Specialist School is therefore inappropriate. The proposal
threatens the ability of Ballerrt Mooroop to meet its goals (as discussed above), with a
small and exclusively Aboriginal community both important aspects in achieving desirable
outcomes. While school merging is becoming an increasingly frequent occurrence in
Melbourne, with Glenroy North and Glenroy primary schools to combine and share the same
site, the phenomenon must not be at the cost of Aboriginal welfare. Ballerrt Mooroop College
is not merely another school. In fact, it is the only remaining Aboriginal school in Melbourne
which sets it apart from other situations. This, along with the individual needs of its students,
must be taken into consideration before the proposal commences.
Lack of consultation with the college council-
The college council has not consented to the development or received adequate consultation
from the state government. As a result, the proposal represents a continuation of the same
devastating ideology which was evident in the historical acquisition of Aboriginal maintained
land through the White Australia Policy.
Alternative options are available-
With adequate funding, the existing site of the Glenroy Specialist School could be
redeveloped to meet their needs. However, if the school still feels that new land is needed to
expand, a number of alternate and more appropriate sites are available such as Glenroy North
or Glenroy primary school. These schools are being closed as they will merge to form one
school, with a new facility to be built beside Box Forest Secondary College to accommodate
the new, combined school. The remaining land from the two primary schools would therefore
provide an ideal alternative to demolishing part of Ballerrt Mooroop College as it is no longer
being used. The presence of viable alternative options highlight the current proposal as not
only unjust, but unnecessary.
Given that alternate options are available, the reason behind the government’s decision to
build the new Glenroy Specialist School directly on the site of Ballerrt Mooroop College
is not clear to the public. If economic constraints are the reason behind the proposal, the
argument contradicts itself as it fails to consider the long-term costs of Koorie disengagement
to the community. These include the financial and social costs resulting from anti-social
behaviour and the provision of services and strategies to address the underlying factors
of such behaviour. The loss of a significant component of Ballerrt Mooroop, along with
inadequate funding, inhibits the school from addressing these factors and thus helping the
transition of Koorie youth to mainstream education and society.
While leaders of today do not have the power to change the past oppressive treatment of
Indigenous Australians, they do have the power to shape the future. Please consider the points
raised in this letter. I look forward to hearing back from you regarding your efforts to prevent
the demolishing of Ballerrt Mooroop’s gymnasium and ceremonial grounds, or a justification
as to why the proposal should continue to commence, despite the clear disrespect for the
Koorie community and presence of viable alternatives.