Senate debates

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


GS Kidd Memorial School

7:14 pm

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Tonight I wish to talk about a most enjoyable experience I had in Gunnedah in the New England north-west region during Education Week a few months ago. I was invited to spend some time with the students and staff at the GS Kidd Memorial School for special purposes, and it was an hour I thoroughly enjoyed. The school had its beginnings back in 1964 when local resident George Stanley Kidd decided Gunnedah needed a school for children with intellectual disabilities. As service clubs are always willing to lend a hand—and I say that proudly as a life member of Apex and a member of Rotary—Gunnedah Lions Club held a meeting with representatives from the department of education, and the first classes were actually held in the Girl Guides hall in March 1965, with Edith Beasley in charge.

Parents and friends were soon out fundraising and, with enormous support from the Lions Club, the GS Kidd Memorial School opened at its present location in November 1966. The department of education purchased the school in 1970 and Edith Beasley retired from teaching in 1983. Tom O'Reilly was the first principal. In 1985 Gunnedah Lions Club and the school's ladies auxiliary donated and installed an inground pool so that the students could learn basic water skills, and two years later adjoining land was used as a playground,

Over the years the one building proved inadequate, so additional buildings were added, and that wonderful charity group Variety Club Australia—the group that organises the popular Bush Bash car events that I will actually be with next Wednesday night in a tribute to Kamahl—installed playground equipment and a wheelchair swing. One of the better stories coming out of the Building the Education Revolution is the multicategory classroom that has been built to cater for students at GS Kidd Memorial School who have multiple diagnosis and support needs.

When I was visiting the school it was obvious they had outgrown the site and could cater for more students if they had additional capacity. I was delighted to hear the Nationals member for Tamworth, Kevin Anderson—a good member and a good friend of mine—announce shortly after that a new school would be constructed on a one-hectare greenfield site in Lincoln Street, Gunnedah. This announcement has been greeted with much enthusiasm by the teaching staff, parents and students—and indeed the whole Gunnedah community.

I was struck during my visit at the dedication shown by the staff headed by Sharne Turpin. The students are so enthusiastic; they have great pride in their school and they are learning in a wonderful, caring environment. Their only disappointment was my inability to master the parachute game, but after a few pointers from the students I soon got into the swing of things.

Sometimes we tend to have a dim view of the world and think we are being hard done by. Mingling with these students was a real reality check for me. They love life, they know people care for them and they are getting on with their lives. As Sharne Turpin correctly says:

When the GS Kidd Memorial School moved to its new site, it will not only take the school's name, it will also take with it the spirit and community legacies to uphold the town's support and passion for education for children with support needs.

I congratulate all involved in the school. They look forward to their new facility. These kids need special care. Luckily they have a special facility—soon a newly constructed greenfields facility. The teachers and the staff are simply magnificent in their love, their care, their responsibility for these young ones—and even their discipline. The kids are really disciplined, something I think is lacking over a broad spectrum of our whole education system throughout Australia. We hear of the Gonski report and billions needed et cetera. I have always been a big fan of 'spare the rod and spoil the child'. When I grew up discipline was a big thing in schools. Sadly, I think there is a lot of discipline lacking. The GS Kidd school has everything there. The kids are tremendously lucky to have wonderful teachers, wonderful support, wonderful parents. I congratulate all involved and look forward to returning to the school in Gunnedah and look forward to the new construction. I thank those involved in the New South Wales government for the great decision to build a new greenfields school for them.