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Schools: primary welfare officers

Mr BATTIN (Gembrook) — I rise today to call on the Minister for Education, who I note is at the table, to report on the progress of the provision of primary welfare officers for the Gembrook electorate. The government committed to delivering primary welfare officers to Victorian schools at the last election. I rise today to support the program and will continue to stand up for my local schools to ensure they are not forgotten.
It is great that we have seven schools in Gembrook engaging in the primary welfare officer program, and I am positive that all those schools are pleased to have this extra support for students in their communities. The coalition’s election commitment of $12.5 million to boost the current workforce by 150 by 2014 is in the process of being delivered. It is another government policy being delivered for Victoria.
The government is committed to ensuring that all schools have access to programs, staff and initiatives to protect students. This is proven by the $10.5 million investment in the anticyberbullying eSmart program and the extra $4 million for the review and updating of antibullying policies and programs of Victorian government schools.
I request that the minister look seriously at the Officer Primary School, a school that has a long history. When it officially opened in 1886 it had 20 students, 1 teacher and a classroom that was only 23 feet by 9 feet. In 1913 the school was severely damaged by a fire due to an electrical fault. A school with a history like this in an area that is now growing at the rate of nearly six families per day will require a lot of support. Officer is predicted to grow to nearly 30 000 people from a population of 1417 in the 2006 census. Many local families used this school for generations and many rely on the education it offers today.
The current principal, Sue Nelson, is proud of the work her staff put in each and every day. They run a very successful special needs program that enables many local families to ensure that their children are educated locally. Everyone in this house understands that all children deserve an opportunity for education. Officer Primary School believes each child should be entitled to this at a local school.
The government is delivering for the Officer area by building a new special school and secondary college in its first term, and the planning for these is nearly complete. The local community understands growth is inevitable, and new facilities and extra support are needed for the schools to continue to grow.
I ask the minister when reporting on this adjournment matter to consider the efforts and hours the current staff put into Officer Primary School.
For a small school in an ever-changing town there are issues about growth and concerns that arise every day. The school needs to have the facilities and staffing to cope with this growth and the extra issues that appear as the environment of the area changes.
In the near future the Officer precinct structure plan will be signed off. As the Minister for Education is aware from his visits, this will begin the development and change we have been speaking about. The government’s commitment to an extra 150 primary welfare officers will be welcomed in my electorate, and in the coming years I will continue to campaign to the minister for more primary welfare officers for my electorate.

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