“We are not happy” – Docklands families want a school
30 Apr 2010
By Alison Kinkade
Young families living in Docklands and other central city areas say they are being forced out the area as the state’s education system has failed to provide a primary school.
The Government is believed to be saying that statistics show few school-age children in Docklands. But young parents say that’s because there is no school and they are forced to move out before their children turn five.
The Docklands Hub community centre hosts 13 playgroups catering for 130 families with toddlers. And even more groups are held at the nearby Harbour Children’s Centre.
The Hub runs new-parent groups every six weeks which results in up to 100 new families joining playgroups each year. Some 65 per cent are from Docklands.
Cr Ken Ong says he has been monitoring discussions between City of Melbourne officers and Education Department officials on the matter.
“It appears from correspondence that the Department of Education has no plans for a primary school in the Docklands area. The State Government has since refuted this,”
Cr Ong said.
Local MP and State Education Minister, Bronwyn Pike, said no decision had been made on whether Docklands would receive a school.
“The Brumby Labor Government is really committed to giving young people in inner Melbourne including Docklands the best educational opportunities and that’s why I requested a report on education needs for this growing area,” Ms Pike said.
Ms Pike said: “The Department is currently finalising a report on school facilities and education needs in and surrounding Melbourne’s CBD.”
Ana and her husband, a NAB employee, have been living in Docklands for the past five years and have two daughters – three-year-old Alma-Mia and two-month-old Anna-Lucia. Ana simply summed up how she feels in four little words, “We are not happy.”
“I’ve already invested in this apartment and I want to stay. But we will have to move out if there is no school because then there is just no choice,” Ana said.
Corrine, who comes from France and now resides in Dock 5 with her husband and two-year-old son, said she found it very difficult to imagine living here for a long time with no school in the area. She said many people thought Docklands had only tertiary students and retirees, but there were many different types of people here.
“I grew up in the city in France and it was great and I would love to replicate that. I’m not attracted to living in a house because I have never lived in a house. I’ve always lived in an apartment and when we were growing up we never found it too small,” Corrine said.
Corrine fears having less time to spend with her kids and more time commuting if she is forced to move out to the suburbs.
“We don’t want to move. We are very happy here. But if we have to move for a school then we will and it will change everything because we don’t have a car and we would need to get a car,” she said.
Cr Ong said a small private primary school had been set up in the CBD, indicating that there was demand for a city school.
“There must be a need identified as private schools do not make investments without identifying a clear need. The State Government cannot let the private sector do what is essentially a State Government responsibility in the area of primary school education,” he said.
Vanessa, who lives in the city with her husband and four-month-old son, said Docklands would be a great place to have a school as it had the room and it was only a short walk from the city.
“To say that there isn’t a demand for a school here is something I find funny, because even the local maternal health nurse is fully book and is having to shuffle around her bookings,” Vanessa said.
Kirsten, who also lives in the CBD with her husband and four-month-old son, agrees with Vanessa and said she was already planning her son’s education hopefully around a city location.
“It seems strange to be planning when they are this little but you have to be aware of it. You have to start thinking about private schools and how you are going to afford them, because the public system isn’t providing,” Kirsten said.
Cr Ong said he believed Docklands was an area with the space to build a primary school for central Melbourne, not just Docklands residents.
“The position that council has is a primary school for the central part of the city is needed as the population in the city’s central areas including CBD, Southbank and Docklands is growing and will need such facilities in the near future,” Cr Ong said.
Gisella, who lives at NewQuay with her husband and six-month-old child, said in her building alone, there were four or five women who have just had a baby and she was not happy with how Docklands families were being treated.
“If you’re a resident and you have to drive out of the city to drop your kids off and then back into the city for work then it’s not going to work. So we’ve also considered moving out for a primary school,” Gisella said.
Gisella, who would like to go back to work next year, said she was also upset at the childcare facilities in Docklands and the inner city.
“Gowrie is becoming full and they give priority to NAB and ANZ workers. They have a waiting list for NAB and ANZ and then a normal waiting list, which seems to get last priority. We live in NewQuay and we pay our rates so why should employees get priority over residents,” Gisella said.
Cr Ong said: “At the moment, families with primary school age children will either have to go to Carlton or North Melbourne for their primary schooling needs. Alternatively, they have to go to South Yarra, South Melbourne or other inner suburbs which means that the State Government is not providing an essential service for the people of the City of Melbourne.”
Melbourne City School is the only school based in the central city area. It is a private school which opened earlier this year and, according to its website, charges $16,750 a year for students between prep and year four and $22,750 per for years five to eight.
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Principal, Melbourne City School
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