Despite efforts by teachers, the Australian Education Union (AEU) leadership prevented a motion in support of Melbourne’s only Aboriginal school from being put to the AEU state council. A speaker from the College was also denied the opportunity to address AEU Council.
AEU councilor Mary Merkenich said she was disappointed that AEU councilors didn’t get a chance to hear that the Ballerrt Mooroop College in Glenroy is under threat and why its school community has been organising a community sit-in in the school gymnasium.
The Brumby government planned to demolish the Ballert Mooroop College gym and other culturally significant sites at the school in the latest of a series of attempts by the Department of Education to dismantle and undermine Koori-specific schools in Victoria.
Since 2008, the Koorie Open Door Education schools in Victoria have suffered several attacks that mirror attacks on Indigenous schools across the country.
Bilingual programs in the Northern Territory have been banned for the first four hours of school days in favour of "mainstream curriculum". Victorian Aboriginal schools have had programs cut and must focus on transitioning students to "mainstream schools".
But mainstreaming doesn't work. There is insufficient support in mainstream schools for the particular disadvantage and experience of racism and there is a failure to value culture, language and families and these were the very reason Koorie schools were set up initially.
Despite attempts to undermine the Koori program, Ballerrt Mooroop College remains a significant institution for the Melbourne Indigenous community because it is the only school that is totally responsive to Aboriginal disadvantage and that fully values Koori culture.
The school council says that undermining this program is no way to “Close the Gap” on Indigenous disadvantage.
Builders are scheduled to move in on December 17 2010 to destroy the college gymnasium to make way for bus and car parking spaces for the nearby Glenroy Specialist School.
Merkenich told Green Left Weekly: "It is appalling that the Department of Education is playing the needs of one disadvantaged school community off against another.
"Both schools should be funded adequately, and the Glenroy Specialist School should be found an appropriate site that does not require the demolition of important parts of the only Aboriginal school in Melbourne.
"The AEU state councilors heard a one-sided report about the needs of the Glenroy Specialist School but they didn’t get a chance to hear about the needs of the Ballerrt Mooroop College.
"The needs of the Glenroy Specialist School are great, because they teach severely disabled children, but the Aboriginal school community also has significant needs.
"By preventing me from moving my motion, AEU councilors were denied a chance to hear why the school community at Ballerrt Mooroop College is fighting to keep their school gymnasium and why the AEU should support their campaign.
"I urge people to support the Ballerrt Mooroop College sit-in and support their community blockade to stop the bulldozers on December 17."
[The school is located at 208 Hilton street, Glenroy. Visit the sit-in, donate food and money to help the sit-in, move motions of support for the sit-in, and join the community blockade on December 17 from 5am.]