Urgent action needed at Walgett High School following more violence

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Shadow Minister for Education Linda Burney said today the situation at Walgett High School was very troubling and required urgent action by the Education Minister following reports of more violence at the school.

According to media reports today more violence broke out at the school during a visit by two senior Education Department bureaucrats – in a clear sign the school is at crisis point.

Previously Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has suggested that changes to the school need to come from the top through strong leadership – but with 14 principals in recent times at the school this is clearly not the answer.

Ms Burney said there needed to be broader engagement with the students and the broader community if changes were to occur at the school.

“For 18 months I’ve been aware of the troubling situation at Walgett High School as I’ve been receiving calls for help and advice from family members and community leaders,” Ms Burney said.

“As news of fights and increasing numbers of police call-outs to the school has emerged in recent weeks I have reached out to the Minister to offer my support and assistance in finding a solution.  I hope he will take up the offer for a bipartisan approach.

“Things are getting desperate at the school.  With four police call-outs in a day even when senior public servants are on site shows to me a complete disregard for authority or normality.

“The only way for change to occur is for everyone to embrace it to work together to overcome the rifts that are threatening to destroy the town and turn it into a place of terror and violence, where lawlessness prevails.”

“The school should be central to the community, not the place it is now.  Walgett is a good, strong and proud community and I know they would work to resolve the situation, given the right opportunity.”

Ms Burney said there were several ways to deal with the problems – including investing more in some initiatives that were having some success.  These could include bringing in more role models to the community, which has been successful with the football team participating in initiatives like Tackling Violence.

Other structural changes that should be considered are:

  • appointing two principals, one for the primary school and one for the secondary, to separate the operations of the two schools.
  • restructuring the governance committee.
  • putting together a group of experienced Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal educators to develop a curriculum specific to the needs of the students.
  • appointing two respected local community members as school liaison officers to bridge the gap between the school, the children and their families.
  • The school Executive should visit families, have a cup of tea and a yarn with them, to talk about issues and see what solutions can be found at that personal, one-on-one level. People talk about dialogue, but we shouldn’t forget dialogue is two way, and requires listening, and not just hearing.