Melbourne’s only Indigenous specialist school, Ballerrt Mooroop College (BMC), is again under threat from the state government.
The Baillieu Liberal government plans to shift the Glenroy Specialist School (GSS) onto the site, which would push the BMC onto one third of the land it has occupied since 1995.
The government provided $18 million to GSS to relocate, but the BMC received just $750,000 to upgrade existing buildings.
It is clear that the Baillieu government is pitting disadvantaged schools against each other.
GSS has children with multiple disabilities and other serious illnesses and its outdated facilities need an upgrade.
In December, the local Indigenous community set up a picket at the school to protest similar plans by the former Labor state government.
The BMC sought heritage protection orders under state and federal laws to protect the school. It argued that the whole site is an Aboriginal Place and should be protected. Artefacts have also been found on site.
The education department refused to negotiate and sent the school a letter during Reconciliation Week that confirmed it had not changed its plan to destroy BMC heritage areas including the Ceremonial Ground, Gathering Place and Spirit Tree.
BMC campaign spokesperson Gary Murray said: “The [education department] letter today states that GSS and department are ignoring us and starting works again on May 31 unless we stop them with people power. There are no changes to their racist plan.
“The education department says that nothing has changed since the state commissioned a minor and flawed cultural heritage review and that the bulldozers are likely to move in any day soon.”
The BMC is now collecting evidence of ancient and contemporary Aboriginal practices on the site to build a case about the contemporary cultural significance of the school.
In addition to the BMC, Victoria’s other Indigenous schools at Mildura, Swan Hill and Morwell could also soon be under threat.
Murray said: “The department has said nothing about their future after 2011. I reckon they will abolish all four schools. These schools also need to be redeveloped, as they have suffered from a lack of funding and discrimination against them. They should be funded for birth to death cultural education, as proper schools.”
[For details about the campaign contact Gary Murray: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0415 683 202.]