On the 18th of August, the Minister for Education apologised for the terrible saga of the deception about programs aimed at improving attendance rates at Halls Creek Senior High School.
“Sadly, the Minister only acted after media broke the story of the failures in her portfolio, detailing allegations about the standard of attendance plans developed as part of the Halls Creek Attendance and Family Wrap Around Service”, said the Hon Neil Thomson MLC, Member for the Mining and Pastoral region.
“Whilst the investigative journalism was first class, why has the Minister not responded earlier to all of the red flags that were raised by the community?” questioned Mr Thomson.
“Why did she not pay heed to the participation officer, Mr Brock Burston, who tried to raise concerns? Instead, her Department put his family through hell by having the Police raid his home, dragging him before the court, only to be acquitted of all charges?
“I regard the Brock Burston case as the worst case of institutionalised bullying I have seen in the nearly three decades I was in the public service”, said Mr Thomson.
“Mr Burston is still under internal disciplinary action even though the Department has now been shown to have misled the Minister and the Ombudsman about the success of their programs.
“The Minister claims some changes will be made, such as a template for attendance plans and some training, but this will not change the culture of the Education Department, for which the Minister is ultimately responsible.”
Mr Thomson continued, “where is the genuine commitment by the Education Department to changing the way schools engage with teenagers in remote areas where intergenerational disadvantage is producing yet another generation of illiterate, frustrated youth who are increasingly being involved with the criminal justice system?”
“Sadly, Halls Creek is not the only location where education is failing our next generation.
“Importantly, the Minister for Education continues to deflect on the core issue of secrecy and bullying in the Department.
“With the investigation completed, both the Minister and Director General should know the truth about who is responsible, who knew what, and who was placing pressure on the system to hide the facts.
“This culture starts at the top and either the Minister should resign, or she should ask for the resignation of the Director General”, said Mr Thomson.
“My message to the Minister is to start genuinely listening to the community, empower local school governance and embrace local initiatives designed to re-engage our youth.
“The Minister has announced she will not be recontesting the next election, so it is time for self-reflection and humility if she is to leave a positive legacy, starting by doing everything in her power to see the restoration of Brock Burston’s career,” said Mr Thomson.