Speeches Education Health Community facilities | February 19, 2020

Public Accounts and Estimate Committee

Victorian Parliament - 19 February, 2020 - 

Ms KEALY (Lowan) (10:34): It is a great pleasure to be able to speak on the Report on the 2019–20 Budget Estimates published in October 2019. I would like to refer to page 98 around school infrastructure. School infrastructure is of course extraordinarily important and particularly in an electorate like mine, Lowan, where we have about 60 schools across the electorate.

We do an extraordinarily good job providing high-quality education, and I give full credit to the educators who do a great job right across our region, sometimes in very, very small schools and other times in quite large schools, and in fact in schools like Horsham College, where Rob Pyers was noted as principal of the year recently. They achieve absolutely outstanding results through their VCE; it is really fantastic. I will make a quick note, which will embarrass her, but I would like to make note of my beautiful surrogate stepdaughter Mya Jones, who was the dux of the Wimmera. She did a fantastic job this year. She studied extraordinarily hard, and I wish her the very, very best for the future.

But we want to make sure that all Victorian students can have a good start to life, not just those that live in certain electorates, and when I look at school infrastructure, the one thing that sticks out in my mind for our region is that we have a half-built school in Warracknabeal. The Warracknabeal Education Precinct has been abandoned by this Labor government. Instead of finishing off this project, where we have got a third of the special development school—where they have had to cut back on the special education programs that are offered to those students—the government walked away from it last year. We have also got the ridiculous situation of the secondary college, where there are cracks in the walls that you can fit your fist in. There is possum urine that leaks through the ceiling. There have actually been sections of ceiling falling down on students during their classes. It is absolutely disgraceful, but only half the funding was provided to build the new school. So we have now got half of the secondary college on a separate site, with the primary school and with a third of the special development school, and it cannot be used. The secondary school students are still stuck in their crumbling building, which has got asbestos in it which has not been removed.

We look at what this new building—this half of a new building—is being used for, and it is a storage room. As a scientist myself I find it absolutely outrageous that we have not got our year 10, 11 and 12 students using a science lab to prepare themselves to get into nursing, to be a doctor—to fill those vacancies we have got in those sectors locally—to train up to be an agronomist or to put back into their community when they have got an interest in and a love for science. Instead it is being used as a storeroom for the breakfast club. So you can go in there and have a look at cereals or maybe see if someone’s bike is being stored in there, but it is not being used to train our next generation of scientists and scientific leaders in the community. I think that is an absolute outrage and a blight on this government.

We have got a budget coming up very, very soon. I plead with this government: please ensure that you finish what you started, that you listen to the local community, who have done an outstanding job in highlighting the need for this school to be funded, and that we finally see this project finished sooner rather than later. It simply cannot be pulled along where there is a little bit of money here, half a classroom there, half a school there; this needs to be finished. The students deserve it and the community deserves it.

I would also like to refer to page 64, which is around the key issues around health. One of the issues around health funding is around the ongoing funding and recurrent funding for key providers of primary health in rural Victoria, particularly in the electorate of Lowan: the primary care partnerships, bush nursing centres and community health centres. Our PCPs have had a stay of execution—they have had their funding extended to the end of June this year; however, it is absolutely essential for my region that funding is continued in the long term. PCPs do an amazing job filling the gaps and bringing our health services together.

Without PCPs we would not have the rural outreach worker, we would not have so many programs that really provide the gap fillers in relation to mental health support services in our region. If PCPs go, we will have disastrous outcomes in our local region because we simply do not have access to other mental health providers in our region. I have personal concerns around this; I have deep concerns. I understand what PCPs do—I used to be on the Wimmera PCP Executive Committee. Please, can this government fund them?

I also note the important role of bush nursing centres. I have got a number of bush nursing centres in my electorate. They have no security of funding beyond the end of June this year. Without bush nursing centres, communities like Harrow, Dartmoor, Lake Bolac and Balmoral will have no health services at all, and it is a blight on this government. (Time expired)

Created with NationBuilder