Federal MP Backs Safe School for Indigenous Children in Alice Springs

Northern Territory federal Labor MP Marion Scrymgour has backed moves by Alice Springs principal Gavin Morris to get Indigenous children off the streets and into the classroom by providing safe accommodation for them at school. Ms Scrymgour will meet Dr Morris to work through issues needed to fast-track the ground-breaking proposal for a residential facility – part of it secure – for students and says she will push federal Education Minister Jason Clare to consider using funding earmarked for education in Central Australia. A proposal commissioned by Dr Morris for his Yipirinya School by building consultants Donald Cant Watts Corke estimates a total building cost of $12m for four cottages housing 24 students with staff accommodation in the same units. Ms Scrymgour said the plans were essential in order to get youth “re-engaged” in the education system.

“We can’t have another generation that becomes illiterate and disengaged from the system and then just ends up on the scrap heap,” she said. “We’ve got to give young people some hope that they can live somewhere safely but they need to re-engage in the school system.” The development comes after Dr Morris revealed how children are sometimes returned to school in handcuffs or wearing ankle bracelets and how a 12-year-old and his mates led teachers on a wild pursuit through the town in a stolen minibus. NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles declined to respond directly to questions about Dr Morris’s proposal but said the Territory government would “stand up two facilities that families can go to when they are displaced and in need of support services. This is to ensure we can get these families back on their feet, back to community or into longer-term accommodation and kids back to school.”

Yipirinya School has more than 200 Indigenous students from the town camps and outstations of Alice Springs, catering for some of the most disadvantaged students in the nation. The school was founded by Indigenous elders and teaches in four Indigenous languages. Ms Scrymgour said that what Dr Morris was proposing should be supported but called for the accommodation to be built in a separate location than the grounds of Yipirinya, accessible to all students in Alice Springs. She proposed a central facility that other high schools could “feed into”, and allowing it to be resourced with government and non-government agencies. “Centralian High in Alice Springs also has issues with kids needing somewhere to stay,” she said. “If you’re going to have a boarding facility for some of these kids I think it shouldn’t be attached to any one school … there’s a real need in Alice Springs.”

Dr Morris said he would be delighted to work with Ms Scrymgour to come up with a viable proposal,” he said. “I’m very flexible in making sure that we work with people like Marion to ensure that we get a solution, and we get action. “I’m happy to explore actions that might not necessarily be on the Yipirinya school site, but also acknowledging this request has come from our key Elders, from community, it’s not my idea.” Alice Springs at a ‘crisis point’ amid youth crime and violence in schools. Ms Scrymgour said she would also support a secure facility in Alice Springs for young people as an alternative to the controversial Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin. “When we’re talking about youth crime, if the kids aren’t going to be sent to Don Dale, but to get them off the streets and as part of their bail conditions, they need to go into a secure facility,” she said. “There is no facility in Alice Springs for that to happen.”

Ms Scrymgour said she would soon meet with Dr Morris to come to a solution. “The one minister I’d like to bring in on this is (federal education minister) Jason Clare … there was some money that was earmarked for education in the central Australian plains, so I want to just talk through some stuff with Gavin, and then maybe have a chat with Jason Clare …” She also called for a similar project to be looked at in Katherine, three hours southeast of Darwin.

Source:  Compiled by APN from media reports

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