PARLIAMENT HOUSE, Canberra: I rise in support of the redevelopment of the Boronia Heights Primary School. Boronia Heights is a terrific school in the corner of my electorate, in the foothills of the Dandenongs. It caters for just under 500 students, from prep to year 6, and is ably led by Principal Mark Flack. The school was established in 1967 and quickly outgrew its capacity. An additional eight classrooms were built in 1970, and another four were added in 1974. These classrooms were considered temporary at the time, but they are actually still on the school site, as are the original classrooms.
This is a fantastic school. It gets good results. The parents love it, as do the kids. But it is in need of a significant renovation and upgrade. In fact, in 2011 the school topped the list of schools in Victoria requiring maintenance. The former Labor state government had 11 long years and did not invest any significant resources into the school to upgrade its facilities, nor was there any major election commitment from the Labor government at the last state election before it was ousted to fix it in this current term.
I should say nor was there from the state opposition at the time. Of course, the great tragedy was the missed opportunity from the federal BER funding where the federal government allocated $16 billion towards school capital infrastructure but, because of the way it administered those funds, we only got about $8 billion worth of value. We all know now that school halls were built on schools which were being closed down. Other halls were built on schools which already had a hall and there was all sorts of duplication and waste and mismanagement.
Boronia Heights got its share of the BER funding, but it could have built twice as much had the school had the money and been able to manage the money itself just as it was able to manage the Investing in Our Schools funding which the Howard government provided in 2005-06.
I have met with Christine Ruff, the school council president, as well as a number of the other school council members and parents. I am aware that 500 letters from concerned parents have been written in support of the school buildings being redeveloped. I have also written to Martin Dixon, the State Education Minister, and spoken with Ed O’Donohue, the upper house state government representative for the area. I know they are sympathetic to the issue.
The state Liberal government has made significant investments into other schools in the area. I believe it is now time for Boronia Heights to also receive such an investment and an upgrade. I would like to see some of the federal funds given for schools directed towards this project. It has been 45 years since this school’s inception. The buildings have served it well but it is time for renewal and to put the school on a new trajectory. I congratulate Christine Ruff and the Council for the work they are doing in bringing this issue to our attention and I strongly support their efforts.