My adjournment today is for the new Minister for Education, and the action I seek is that the government provide funding to build a public secondary school in Kilmore. The lack of urgency and care from his predecessor has seen a golden opportunity missed, and I hope he is able to rectify this. The previous minister took no action, refusing to engage with families and displaying a lack of foresight and an arrogance that has left hundreds of families without accessible local educational alternatives. Despite thousands of local residents signing petitions calling for the state government to purchase the former Colmont School campus, it has been sold to a private company. With over 3300 signatures on our petitions in a town of more than 10,000 people, the pressing need for a public school in Kilmore is unmistakable.
It is disheartening to find ourselves fighting for a school when most communities are focused on extensions or upgrades. I am here as a representative of numerous parents and grandparents united in urging this government to provide funding for a school. Among those are Jamie and Martin Leahy, Meghan Hayes, Linda Jeffery, Sarah Tofield, Taylor Woods, Narelle Robertson, Tracey Challis, Zoe Kranenburg, Sheree Cornell and countless others. Thank you all for your support in this fight for our fundamental rights. The former school campus was ready made, conveniently on the market and had the opportunity to provide a cost-effective solution to a very real issue for this town. While the golden opportunity has been missed, the lack of schooling options in the town cannot just be ignored. The community support highlights that we have enough students to fill a new school today.
Kilmore is the largest town in Victoria without a public secondary school and is one of the biggest growth corridors in the state. The Mitchell shire region population is set to rise by 255 per cent in the next 20 years, with Kilmore’s population anticipated to more than double in the same period to nearly 23,000. Despite this forecast, this government is failing to provide a public education for our local children. The only secondary education choice in Kilmore is Assumption College, a reputable private school with annual fees beginning at nearly $9000. Regrettably, this region’s income levels fall below the state’s median, making it challenging for many families to afford this. Not everyone can afford to attend a private school. Nearby schools in towns like Broadford, Wallan and Whittlesea are either at capacity or nearing capacity, and students as young as 12 years old are having to make a 2-hour commute to and from school each day. Why is this government committed to perpetuating a postcode lottery which leaves children disadvantage based on where they live? This is not some rural, remote location; this is Kilmore, one of the fastest growing towns in our state. It is time to listen to our community and provide them with a public secondary school. As local parent Bianca Taylor put it:
Our children shouldn’t have to travel to other towns for a fair education
and as dad James Mason said:
… this is a no brainer.