Community group Save The Old Kings School (STOKS) held a protest in Parramatta in Sydney’s west on February 2 to demand the historic old Kings School site stay in public hands.
Local residents, STOKS activists and members of the Greens and Socialist Alliance attended the action.
The school site dates back to the early days of the colony. When the school relocated to North Parramatta in 1968, the site was sold to the NSW government. It has been unused for many years.
Now, STOKS fears that NSW Premier Kristina Keneally is receptive to a proposal by the Bishop of Parramatta Anthony Fisher to allow the church to buy the site for its offices and welfare programs.
STOKS is determined to keep the public land in public hands.
STOKS spokesperson Chrissie Ianssen told Green Left Weekly the group had two main issues with the proposal to privatise the old school site.
She said the first issue was that “[the site] is public property and already too many public assets have been sold off.
“The state government is negotiating to sell off the old Kings site to a private institution with absolutely no consultation process with the Parramatta council or the local community.
“STOKS wants to know why was it put up for sale in the first place? What market value will the Catholic Church pay for this site? Will the Catholic Church get substantial public funds for the rehabilitation of the site?
“In addition, if the site goes to the Catholic Church for its offices, it will block access to the Parramatta River.”
Ianssen said a second big issue is the site could be put to a very different use. “At the moment there is no art gallery in Parramatta,” she said.
“The site is perfect for an arts precinct and a gallery, performance spaces, open studios for performers and artists, community art spaces for workshops, cafes and parkland.
“This will complement the nearby Parramatta Riverside Theatres. The Parramatta Council wants to open this land up to the public for the benefit of the whole community.”
Parramatta Mayor John Chedid supports the proposed sale, but most other councillors and the local chamber of commerce support keeping the site public, said the February 3 Parramatta Advertiser.
[For more details on the campaign to keep the old Kings School site in public hands visit Saveoldkings.org.]