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Yipirinya School principal Gavin Morris with plans for the 80-bed boarding house. Picture: NCA Newswire/Gera Kazakov

Principal questions if $18m for Central Aus boarding schools is enough

The federal government is offering million dollar grants to fund upgrades to remote school boarding facilities, but the principal of an Alice Springs school has questioned whether or not it’s enough. 

Until August 9, funding of up to $10m per project is available for capital works projects in Central Australia to improve or create new boarding facilities for secondary school students. 

The funding was announced by Education Minister Jason Clare and Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney in a joint statement and comes from the federal government’s $18m Central Australia Boarding Response Fund

"This announcement complements the $40m allocated to all schools in the Central Australia region for On-Country Learning,” the ministerial statement said.

The funds are a part of the larger $250m fund allocated to the Better, Safer Future for Central Australia plan.   

But Yipirinya School, located in Alice Springs, principal Gavin Morris is questioning whether the $18m will be enough to provide substantial upgrades to schools in Central Australia

“What happens if eight, nine, 10 organisations put their hand up for some money?” he said.

Yipirinya School Principal Gavin Morris at Yipirinya School, Alice Springs. Picture: NCA Newswire/Gera Kazakov

“Does that get split evenly? Does one organisation get more than the other?

“In my view, $18m does not reflect the significance of the problem with the 1500 homeless children in Central Australia.”

Mr Morris’ hesitancy towards the grants comes from a $10.8m 80-bed boarding house the school has been advocating for the last decade. 

The ministerial statement said the funding announcement came after an “assessment” by the federal and Territory governments of boarding capacity options in Central Australia.

Minister Burney said building better boarding schools would help close the gap between First Nations and non-Indigenous school students.

“Better quality boarding facilities with more places available will remove a barrier to education for First Nations young people in Central Australia who often don’t have secondary schools located close to home,” she said. 

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman

“Investing in these facilities will give more First Nations young people from Central Australia the opportunity to complete their secondary education and achieve their full potential.”

Mr Morris said he agreed that Aboriginal children needed better accommodation options, and welcomed the funding – which could potentially be used to build the new boarding house at Yipirinya, were the grant approved. 

“We don’t for one minute think that we’re any more important than the rest of Central Australia who are doing great work on country,” Mr Morris said. 

“[The funding is] a welcome announcement, but $18m has to be stage one of a whole bunch of if we’re serious about Aboriginal boarding in Central Australia,” he said. 

Minister Clare said this funding could go to improving existing facilities or building new ones. 

“This investment in boarding facilities in Central Australia is about supporting school students in remote Northern Territory communities,” he said. 

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