The Wonthaggi school funding game has ‘gone on long enough’
By Matt Male
Please note, a copy of the petition – calling for a new senior campus for the Wonthaggi Secondary College is now available online at:
THE Bass Coast community has had enough.
It’s only public secondary college is fast running out of room, and time, as pleas for millions of dollars in funding for a new senior campus go unanswered.
The Wonthaggi Business and Tourism Association and Wonthaggi Secondary College School Council have teamed up to launch a petition demanding an end to the political football that is the $25 million funding commitment for the senior campus.
The number of students attending the campus is expected to grow by 50 to 70 next year and there are already plans to bring in two more portables to cope.
The two extra classrooms will be situated on the oval, giving a predicted 650 students less room to enjoy their lunch breaks.
Acting college principal Darren Parker says the community support for the funding has been fantastic.
“It’s not just about a new school, it’s about our community,” he said.
“It’s really important people understand good stuff continues to operate.”
“Our kids aren’t disadvantaged, but they deserve the same advantage as everyone else.”
The state of the school is costing the Victorian Government hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to maintain. The school was built in 1922.
If State Governments wait an extra five years, Bass Coast students will be in century-old classrooms. “We can’t just hope for this. We need to expect this is going to happen,” Mr Parker said.
“We need to maintain that expectation for a new campus and the Wonthaggi Tourism and Business Association has gotten the petition out straight away to businesses in Wonthaggi and across Bass Coast.
“We will survive and we will go on, but our kids deserve better.”
The Wonthaggi Business and Tourism Association, and Wonthaggi Secondary College School Council both agree they don’t care who the politicians are in State Parliament; they’re just after a new campus.
Wonthaggi Secondary College School Council president Geoff Robertson said students deserve 21st century facilities.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a building project of this size in Wonthaggi, apart from the Desalination Plant,” Mr Robertson said.
“It’s not that we just want a shiny new school. I think the town needs something, we’ve had nothing.”
Mr Robertson’s comments follow years of unrest from the community and graduating students of the college about the need for funding.
“If it went ahead this year, I think it would’ve been the biggest school building project in Victoria,” Mr Robertson said.
In the lead up to the November 2018 State Election, there are fears the college will be used as a political football.
Bass MP Brian Paynter recently launched a petition calling on the State Labor Government to “end their neglect” of the school.
“We’ve had both parties in Parliament over the years and none of them have actually come up with the money,” Mr Robertson said.
“They yell at each other but no-one’s committing to funding it. We want all parties to commit.”
The petition for funding, titled ‘Bass Coast Students Deserve Better’, reads:
“We the undersigned wish to express our support for a new senior campus for Wonthaggi SC.
“The establishment of a new campus, on the land available in McKenzie Street, will not only provide a high-quality physical environment for students but also supply an important community asset for the wider Bass Coast area.
“Quality programs continue in the college but the students and staff also deserve 21st century facilities for delivering this.”
The Wonthaggi Business and Tourism Association vowed to support a more aggressive campaign earlier this year, following the handing down of the 2017-18 State Budget.
Association secretary Terry Earl, and other members, begun last week distributing the petition to local businesses.
He’s keen to see more community support to stand up to the politicians and get the funding.
“We’ve had enough. It’s been on the agenda for so long, everyone’s just appalled,” he said.
“The funding hasn’t happened again and we are going to do everything we can to help sway some political minds.”
The seat of Bass has been held by the Liberals since 2002.
“This has gone on long enough. It’s an opportunity to stand and be counted,” Mr Earl said.
“This place has always been a safe conservative seat but I’m hearing now it’s not as safe as it used to be.”
The association is a good example of how not funding the campus affects many people in the community, including small businesses, their families and staff, Mr Parker said.
The Facebook page ‘Bass Coast Students Deserve Better’ was set up last week to drive support from the community. It’s already gained more than 200 followers.
The petition will be delivered to six ministers, including Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Education Minister James Merlino, Eastern Victoria MP Harriet Shing, Bass MP Brian Paynter, Eastern Victoria MP Melina Bath and McMillan MP Russell Broadbent.
The petition can be signed at Wonthaggi Secondary College, South Gippsland Sentinel-Times and many other businesses in Wonthaggi and Bass Coast.
Businesses who would like to have the petition in their shop are encouraged to call the Wonthaggi Secondary College McBride campus on 5671 3700.