I rise on this evening’s adjournment debate to seek an action from the Minister for Education. The action I seek is that the minister visit my electorate and accompany me to visit the special developmental schools in both Warrnambool and Portland that are in desperate need of capital funding.
Warrnambool Special Developmental School is currently located on a steep and inadequate site, which is particularly difficult for wheelchairs. When it was established in 1999 there were 30 students enrolled at this site. Today that same facility has 128 students, and it is inadequate for them.
The coalition government responded to the need and allocated $10 million to fund a new school on a new site. However, the Andrews government only allocated $5 million in last year’s budget for the Warrnambool special needs school. This funding will not be adequate to purchase the land and build the school. It is my understanding that land has been purchased for the school at 189 Wollaston Road on the outskirts of Warrnambool, which is an ideal location on the banks of the Merri River. The site has a domestic house on it in which the school intends to run an independent living program, which will be a terrific asset to enhance the school curriculum. However, without classrooms the site is not usable. We need the project properly funded in Warrnambool.
Whilst the minister is in the region I would ask that he accompany me to Portland to visit with the principal and the school president, Deb Robinson, of the Portland Bay special development school. The school faces another year in facilities that have been recognised to be in urgent need of upgrading by the department. This school, which I have raised before in the house, has nowhere for the boys and girls to kick a football or play together. The amount of grassed area could be reasonably described as no bigger than a postage stamp. Many of the boys and girls are in their later teen years. When they kick a football together they regularly have to jump over the fence and run onto the road to retrieve the ball. Clearly this is an unsuitable risk to the safety of the students. The teachers also have an inadequate area for their needs, and attracting teachers with the specialised skills required is compromised when asking teachers to work in conditions not up to the standards available in other schools. The school was built for approximately 10 students and is now accommodating 44, with enrolments growing.
The parents of special needs children in many cases are under enormous pressure due to the needs of their children, and they should not have to deal with the worry of their children being educated in second-rate facilities when a solution for both schools is at hand and ready to go. I urge the minister to come to my region and meet the parents who face yet another school year with inadequate facilities for their children, and with no hope of progressing — with inadequate funding given in last year’s budget by the Andrews government to fund the task in Warrnambool’s case and no funds given in the case of Portland. I urge the minister to take action, come to the South-West Coast electorate and accompany me to visit with these schools and reassure the families that the funding is imminent.