Aboriginal college faces shock closure

Photo: Ballerrt Mooroop College Strong Spirit Network/Facebook

The Ballerrt Mooroop College Support Group met on March 4 to discuss action in response to the imminent closure of the college, which is the last surviving Aboriginal school in Melbourne.

Aboriginal people in the area have worked hard to keep the school open. But over the past 12 months, the education department has taken much of the land away and bulldozed the valuable student and community asset, the gymnasium/gathering place.

Parents and school committee members used money donated from community supporters to renovate an unused building on the site as a temporary gathering place. But the department also bulldozed this building.

A March 5 Treatyrepublic.net article said: “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 week's [time] ...

“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 [Victorian] education department announced that the school would be closed …

“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.”

In a letter to education minister Martin Dixon, the group said: “Those in attendance feel this decision is a clear repudiation of an agreement formulated in 2011 regarding the future operation of the school.

“Following lengthy discussions of the situation it was unanimously resolved that;

“There be an immediate moratorium on any decisions regarding the future of the Ballerrt Mooroop College and cultural area site.

“That the site be immediately protected from vandalism or any other damage.

“That no internal or external artifacts be removed or re-situated.

“That a broad and appropriate consultation process commenc[e] immediately concerning the future of the college and the use of the site.”

The support group has asked community groups, organisations and individuals to contact Dixon’s office to support the letter.

Protests against the closure are planned for the weeks ahead.

[For more information about the campaign, visit ballerrtmooroop.org.]


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