The revolving door of Prime Ministers continues – this afternoon, we learned the Hon. Scott Morrison, MP will become Australia’s 30th Prime Minister, our sixth since 2010.
I do not intend to make this a political rant or indeed to indicate favour with one or other of our political leaders, but we need to ask, when will our politicians start governing our country? It is high time the ‘internal tribalism’, so often found in Canberra ceased, and political leaders remember their remit as public servants and their obligation and duty to govern the country. Eyes fixed so enviously on each other can never be equally as focussed on the real issues facing society.
Yesterday I overheard two Year 4 students talking about the “Minister of Australia”. One little girl said to the other “they behave worse than kids”. This, out of the mouth of a Year 4 student – priceless; if they can see this, why cannot our political leaders see this too.
At the beginning of the week, the Board Chairman and I flew to Canberra to hear speeches from the Hon. Tanya Plibersek, MP, the Hon. Bill Shorten, MP and Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham on their approach to school funding. While the policy of the Opposition and the Government remained equally obscure and lacking in detail, the speeches did highlight that the Labor Party is certainly not as interested as the Government in supporting Independent Schools.
Each year we see the same antagonistic and divisive comments in the media which can be described as nothing more than ‘tribalism’. A clear attempt by staunch advocates of one group to see the demise of all others. Why do we have to behave like this? Why can’t we mature as a society, as a nation, and accept that, in our country, parents have the right to choose which school their child attends. While such divides may sell papers, I hope that there is a time in my professional life when we can set the politics of government versus non-government schools aside and have a simple resourcing standard that is applied to all Australian children equally.
The prosperity of the nation and the economy of our country does not rest on the shoulders of a few but rather us all. If we wish our nation to be competitive in international trade, to innovate and to enable prosperity, we need to educate ALL children to the best of our ability. We need to accept that some parents are prepared to pay for a unique or specific education (in their eyes) and that which they see has specific value. This is their right.
I have stated this on numerous occasions, but if parents of independent schools do not voice their opinion to the local Member then we allow the discourse to be coordinated and run by those who seek to remove your choice as parents.
I was the parent of a child who attended an independent school and chose to pay for her education. I did this because I believed there was a better level of education, I believed that there were more opportunities in co-curricular activities, that there was an opportunity to mix with children from families with similar beliefs, values and standards, an opportunity to form a network that would benefit her long into the future, and a belief that the autonomy of the school provided benefit in ensuring the appropriate behaviour of students and the higher performance of staff – this was my belief and it is my right to believe in this and act accordingly. This was my choice and my reasoning. Each parent will have their own reason for their choices; each must be respected; and each has the right to make such choices.
Right now, decisions are being made on how much your child will be funded by the government, and this could take an even more concerning turn if there was a change in government! If you value having the choice of where to educate your child, it is imperative that we – each of us – voice our opinion and seek equal resourcing for all students and then the application of specific needs-based funding where required; and an end to the division between the various education sectors. If we continue this internal attack on each other, we do not serve our nation and all that has been hard-won. If we say nothing, we allow a very one-sided discussion to somehow represent the views of the nation. This will result in decreased funds to support the education of those families who value an independent school education.
For your interest, I would like to draw your attention to the various speeches made at the recent Forum attended by the Chairman of the Board and myself. We were there to represent your right to have a choice, your right to funding and your right to have an equitable share of taxpayers’ dollars for your child’s education. Our voice is not enough, and we need you to make your rights known to those who govern the country. These speeches can be found at: http://isca.edu.au/media-events/isca-events/2018-isca-ahisa-national-education-forum/
It is time we governed the nation, not the party room, and we need to hold our leaders accountable on how they use our money.