By JR on Wednesday, October 12, 2011
A lot of Leftists resent the fact that non-government schools get varying degrees of financial support from the Australian Federal government
A GIPPSLAND Catholic school is questioning whether it is being discriminated against by being banned from a generations-old community campground. The St Kieran’s school community in Moe is gutted by a decision by government-run Somers School Camp to allow only state schools to access Woorabinda School Camp in Yallourn North from next year.
The camp said today its priority was for government schools programs, but hinted today that Catholic and Independent could still have access on weekends and school holidays.
St Kieran’s acting principal Lisa Broeren said children from the low-income area would have nowhere else to go if shut out from the local camp. “I guess why we’re so upset is it’s the kids’ parents and grandparents here who actually built it, and it’s their family members who ran it all those years and now they’re saying ‘bad luck’. And we’d like to say ‘bad luck’s just not good enough’,” Ms Broeren, who also attended the camp as a child, said.
She questioned Somers’ motive for shutting independent schools out of the facility. “We would just love to know what their justification is – is it discrimination against Catholic schools?,” she said.
A letter to the school from Somers School Camp Principal Denise Anthony says Woorabinda is now funded to provide educational programs for state government school students across Victoria. “You can see that Woorabinda has changed and although Catholic and independent schools, such as St Kieran’s, will not have access past the end ... ,” Ms Anthony says in the June letter.
Today, Ms Anthony rejected claims of discrimination, telling the heraldsun.com.au the move to only allow public schools to use the site was not discriminatory, and stressed Catholic and independent schools had known of the move since the site was taken over by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in April last year.
“Since 2010 the landscape has completely changed – Woorabinda was once a quasi-private camp, who opened its doors to everybody because they needed to get support in the local area, and they also needed to raise funds to self-manage. “The Department of Education now owns and operates this site, which means we have a commitment to provide programs to government primary school students,” she said.
She said it may be possible for the independent and Catholic schools to use the site on weekends and during school holidays, “but with being a fully-funded government primary school, we can’t provide programs for the government sector and for the private sector at the same time.”
“I believe that we are doing our job as a government primary school by providing high quality education programs to the people that we are meant to be providing to. In other words: the Department of Education, the State Government is funding us to provide programs to State Government students,” she said.
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development funded several infrastructure improvements to the camp in the past year.
Somers School Camp provides an outdoor education program for children in Years Five and Six, for nine days a year on the Mornington Peninsula. It includes activities like bush cooking, orienteering and ropes courses.
Children have written to state and federal ministers, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard – as well as the media – in a plea to stop the shut out.
In a letter to the Herald Sun, Year 6 student Matthew Pearce said the Catholics were being discriminated against. “Are they destroying the dreams of the next generation? Well St Kieran’s Catholic Primary School Moe thinks they are,” the letter reads.
"Because Somers are not letting Catholic and private schools attend Woorabinda school camp. Would you like to know why? Just because they can and they want to, which is pure discrimination against Catholics. "We are not living in the 1800s, when people were judged by their religion or the colour of their skin."
A spokesman for Education Minister Martin Dixon said the minister would be asking the Department of Education to look into the matter.
Parent Melissa Ballantine, who attended the camp as a child, said her youngest son, Jaxon, would miss out on the camp because of the ruling. “The kids are gutted, the parents are gutted, the whole school community - we just can’t see how it’s fair to these kids, should all kids have access to these things,” Ms Ballantine said.