House debates

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Constituency Statements

Canning Electorate: Austin Cove Baptist College

9:48 am

Photo of Don RandallDon Randall (Canning, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on an issue that has caused great grief for an already grieving school in my electorate—that is, Austin Cove Baptist College's inability to obtain a school chaplain. Austin Cove Baptist College is a new school which opened in February 2011. Soon after opening their doors, the school endured two tragedies in a row: the death of 13-year-old Lauren Ames on 12 April 2011, as a result of a car accident while being driven to school on 8 February; and the death of 13-year-old Georgie Spies, in a tent explosion at the Mandurah caravan park on 4 May 2011. Three other family members also passed away in that fire.

School principal, Orlando Dos Santos, has teachers performing the duties of a chaplain for grieving students, teachers and parents. The school should not have to sacrifice teaching hours because Minister Garrett will not show some compassion and provide them with a school chaplain under the National Schools Chaplaincy Program. The 2011-12 federal budget allocated an additional $222 million for the National Schools Chaplaincy Program, yet Minister Garrett cannot take control of the situation to grant this school a chaplain. The National Schools Chaplaincy Program was a Howard government initiative and was designed to support schools faced with situations just like the one at Austin Cove Baptist College. This is a classic example of how such a program can bring immense support to a grieving school. I first contacted Minister Garrett on 16 February 2011 and have done so since, on 13 May last year and on 2 February this year. I have written to him three times and raised this in parliament and there has still been no compassion or reasonable response from the minister. I call on the minister to exercise his ministerial discretion to intervene in this case and allocate the school chaplain they so desperately need. Minister Garrett might have been a handy rock star but as a minister of the Crown he is an abject and abysmal failure. He needs to address this issue under his responsibility.