The Guardian May 8, 2002


Two NSW schools saved, six to go

The NSW Labor Government has finally bowed to overwhelming community 
campaigning and reversed its decision to close Sydney's Dulwich Hill public 
school. The Government had originally planned to close seven Sydney schools 
and put forward this objective in an inappropriately named document 
Building the Future. The other schools scheduled for closure are the 
Hunters Hill, Vaucluse and Maroubra High schools, and Erskineville, 
Waterloo and Redfern Primary schools.

In a particularly nasty twist the Government had given itself the option of 
closing the Marrickville High which is near to Dulwich Hill. Apparently the 
Government was attempting to pit the two school communities against each 
other.

However, the two communities quickly joined forces against the closure of 
either school. They were joined in protests by striking teachers and local 
community groups.

The original plan was hatched by former Minister for Education, John 
Aquilina but immediately ran into strong community opposition that probably 
contributed to John Aquilina recently losing the Education portfolio.

The Government has now ceased referring to Building the Future and, 
last week, announced that both Marrickville and Dulwich High are to remain 
open.

In a miraculous transformation the Government declared that both schools 
are to be allocated specialist roles. Dulwich High will focus on visual 
arts and design and Marrickville, on information technology.

The retention of these two schools will encourage those who are campaigning 
to keep the other threatened schools open.

Backdown

Although the Government initially stated that the closures were "not 
negotiable", its backdown over Dulwich and Marrickville schools sets a 
precedent for a full review of the plan, including abandonment of all the 
closures.

Significantly, all the schools proposed for closure occupy prime real 
estate and the Government has stuck rigidly to its proposed sell-off of the 
most valuable sites. The Hunters Hill site alone is reputed to be worth $60 
million.

The Dulwich Hill and Marrickville decisions seem to have been influenced by 
particularly cynical electoral considerations. Jenny Prokhovnik, president 
of the Hunters Hill Parents and Citizens' Association, in congratulating 
the Marrickville and Dulwich school communities, remarked bitterly that 
"the difference is that they are in Deputy Premier Refshauge's electorate 
and their land is not worth as much."

Action to oppose the other closures is continuing to gather pace. There is 
less than a year to go before the next State election and the Carr 
Government has recently abandoned (or appears to have abandoned) several 
other highly unpopular proposals. And there are a great many of them.

For example late last year, it announced that the huge, inaccessible and 
grossly unpopular new footbridge proposed for the Summer Hill Railway 
Station was to be abandoned in favour of a new "easy access" design which 
retained the more easily accessible existing subway. But the Government has 
fallen seriously short when it comes to community consultation.

The new footbridge design was to be reached "in consultation with the local 
community", but in the end "consultation" consisted solely of ministerial 
discussions with the local ALP mayor. There was no communication with the 
"Save Summer Hill" group which had led the campaign against the earlier 
footbridge design.

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