A community sit-in defending Melbourne’s only Indigenous school, Ballerrt Mooroop College in Glenroy, began on November 24.
The state Labor government planned to shift the Glenroy Specialist School (GSS) onto the site, which would push the Koori school into portable classrooms in a tiny area. The government provided $18 million to GSS to relocate, but the Koori school received just $750,000.
In a case of “divide and rule”, John Brumby’s government is pitting disadvantaged schools against each other. GSS, which has children with multiple disabilities and other serious illnesses, has outdated facilities, making access to the existing school difficult.
GSS was negotiating with the government to shift onto the Ballerrt Mooroop College site for two years, but the college council found out about the proposal only several months ago.
Ballerrt Mooroop College has been at the site since 1996. Several years ago, the state Labor government talked about shutting it down. The school community won a reprieve, but the government changed the school’s registration in 2009 from being a general school to a Koori pathway school.
Pathway schools are only for students who don’t fit in at mainstream schools. Ballerrt Mooroop College can not independently enrol students, instead getting referrals from the education department. Several months ago, the enrolments dried up, eventually dwindling to just 20.
It appears to be an attempt to close the school by stealth.
Broadmeadows Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group spokesperson Gary Murray told Green Left Weekly state Labor education minister Bronwyn Pike wanted a “melting pot education”. He asked why Aboriginal children couldn’t have a Koori school, given there are many schools catering to single religions.
“We want a full school”, he said, “not just for Aboriginal kids in trouble at mainstream schools. Eventually we would like a boarding school for Aboriginal kids from all over Victoria”, he said.
The community sit-in was continuing 24 hours a day. The protesters would appreciate visitors and messages of support. December 17 will be critical: builders are due to begin demolishing the gymnasium.