Community responds to snap closure of Aboriginal school

   Audio File  3CR 8.15AM (Victoria) - Online Streaming 3RC Podcast - includes BMC Update, brief history & interview with 'Aunty Barb'

A group of supporters met at Wominjeka Co-operative in Broadmeadows on the afternoon of Sunday March 4, 2012.  They decided that the only action possible at the moment is to do everything they can to save the cultural area, existing buildings and artifacts (inside and outside the building).
A letter was sent to the Victorian Minister of Education, Martin Dixon, demanding that there be an immediate moratorium on any decisions regarding the future of the Ballerrt Mooroop College land and cultural area. Other demands were that the site be immediately protected from vandalism and other damage, that no internal or external artifacts be removed or re-situated and that a broad and appropriate consultation process commence immediately about the future of the college and the use of the site.
The closure of the school was a shock to everyone and school committee members were not even invited to the school meeting when staff were told of the closure in two weeks. The supporter group decided that instant action was required to allow time to fully analyse and consider the situation.
It is understood that the school principal came out of retirement to undertake an inclusive six-month contract that expires on exactly the same day the Education Department announced that the school would be closed.
The principal is believed to have around 40 years experience and has worked with children with disability, but that seems to be a far cry from the experience necessary to handle and help young Aboriginal people needing specialist support.
Due to the type of student enrolments a Department agency was providing Ballerrt Mooroop College, specialist staff were required to support young people 'at risk'.  Some of the support mechanisms that should have been in place include an ability by staff to guide students who struggle with basic rules and expectations, have problems with the law, are in danger of truancy, are associated with negative peer groups and severely lack motivation, self-worth and self-esteem. 
There have been some appropriate teachers at the school in the past, but it is unclear whether the current principal has these specific qualities.
There are believed to have been around six expulsions from the school since the current principal has been in place, and at least one of those students is now in custody.  It also appears that the school has not been accepting non-'at risk' students, and Indigenous parents in the regional community have been planning to send their children to a school that has significant cultural values and a culturally appropriate learning program.
It was bought to the attention of the school's support group that the contact list, copies of correspondence and other material owned by the group has been in the hands of the principal since the gathering place was bulldozed by the Department. The principal recently admitted she has seen the folder but can't find it, leaving the group without important files. This loss of supporter contact details is potentially a massive breach of privacy and has made it difficult for the group to communicate effectively in the current emergency situation.
The support group is still trying to digest the situation at the college but it appears that the school has been set-up by the department for failure, so it can be closed down.

See: Aboriginal college faces shock closure By Chris Peterson
Green Left Online - March 9, 2012



I don't know what to say, I don't know what to do. It's a big shame to all Australians that this is happening. On the one hand the message is put about that "Aboriginal people need to do more to help themselves"(eg Gillard in feb 2011) on the other hand they don't really mean that, they mean be as white as possible and don't be a nuisance by being different.

The only way mainsteaming would be acceptable is if the mainstream changed to authentically incorporate Aboriginal ways of knowing and even teach Languages in the mainstream to all Australian children. But if we can't have a more Aboriginal mainsteam for everybody then there will still need to be specific Aboriginal schools. The government should be grateful and happy those active parents are prepared to do some of the work for them instead of undermining these attempts.

I just feel so angry and despairing right now. Hope you all stay strong when on the news this morning i heard even more closures are coming :(

Folder found!

Update: Since this article was released the lost folder belonging to the Ballerrt Mooroop Support Group miraculously turned up - just goes to show ....

Education Department Contempt

After the Gymnasium/Gathering place was demolished by the department in 2011, a few very active parents and friends of the school used funds donated by the community for materials to restore an unused building on the site. The building was to be used as a Community Hub.

Within a short space of time, the copper pipes from the plumbing system at the building were removed by person(s) unknown. The department stated it would cost $50,00 to repair and immediately demolished the building.

This is yet another example of the department's contempt and lack of support for the local Aboriginal people in their pursuit for self-determination and to improve their conditions and set positive examples to the younger community members.

See 'before' and 'after' Images - Save Ballerrt Mooroop College website

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