NT’s Adam Giles does a ‘Pyne’ on Gonski

We had fantastic news today.  Gonski is saved.  This is worth celebrating but in doing so, let us also remember that because of the different arrangements for the ‘Hold out’ states (Qld, WA and NT)  – the states where most of our remote Indigenous citizens reside – we do not have a national needs based school funding system in Australia and the losers are our most disadvantaged children.

I don’t know how this will play out in WA and Qld but when I think about what will happen in NT – what this should have meant for remote schools and the lost opportunity –  it makes me want to weep.

In a revealing article[1] in the Australian in July 2013, Adam Giles, Chief Minister for the NT admitted that according to the Gonski Student Resource Standard metrics, many of its Darwin, and some of its Alice Springs, schools are significantly over-funded.

Gonski is a con that says more than 40 per cent of Territory students attend schools that get too much funding and need less,” Mr Giles said.

Under the federal government’s model, Darwin High School and Palmerston Senior College are overfunded by around $2 million, Moil Primary School is overfunded by more than $1.3m, Taminmin College is overfunded by $2.5m, and Bradshaw Primary School is overfunded by more than $900,000.

The NT Government receives additional funds from the Commonwealth Grants Commission for the purpose of delivering services to disadvantaged and remote communities.  In my previous articles, I revealed that a significant proportion of these funds are not spent in remote servicing but on the more white friendly services in Darwin and to some extent Alice Springs. School funding is  one aspect of rort.

You would think that, given that our fellow Indigenous citizens of the Northern Territory, are, as a group, the most disadvantaged people in Australia, this information would have generated some outrage.  But Giles’ admission passed with barely a ripple.

If journalists had bothered to look up the details of the overfunded schools it might have discovered that they all had much lower numbers of Indigenous students than the underfunded schools.  For example, while the proportion of  students  who are Indigenous in the NT is now around 45%.  The percentage for Darwin High School is 6%, Moil Primary is 13%, Palmerston Senior College is 27% and Taminmin High School is 16%.

This same article also made it clear that this was the reason why the NT did not sign up to the Labor Gonski offer. The Commonwealth even offered to modify their deal so they could maintain, but not enhance, the overfunding for the more white schools. The NT still refused.

In addition, Giles made it clear that the NT is not willing to apply the Gonski student resource and needs loading principles to the funding of their schools.

“Mr Giles accused Canberra of trying to hoodwink the Territory into signing up to a bad deal that diverts money away from urban students in Darwin, the rural area, Palmerston, Alice Springs and Katherine and redistributes it to remote schools…..

Mr Chandler said that under the Gonski model, Canberra had to approve how the Territory distributed its funding to schools,

So now they are getting their funding from the Abbott Government with NO STRINGS ATTACHED.

The I Give a Gonski website[2] has very helpfully provided a look-up chart so it is possible to see what NT schools should have received  as a result of new Gonski funding.  And remember that in the case of the NT, the Commonwealth gave a set additional amount to all the overfunded schools. So if you look up a Darwin average to well off primary school, you will find that they can expect a funding increase of 32% and a secondary school around 16-19%.

But here are some examples of the percentage increases NT remote schools would have received had the Gonski principles been applied:

Shepherdson College –  in Galiwin’ku, an Indigenous community, 73%

Yuendumu School – an Indigenous community, 60%

Umbakumbar School – an Indigenous community, 86%

Alekarenge School – an Indigenous community, 68%

Docker River – an Indigenous community, 110%

Borroloola – a mining town with a majority Indigenous population, 92%

Now Tony Abbott has never been a champion of equity – I get that – but he has claimed to being committed to improving outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

But what about all the wonderful Australians who rose up in their thousands to stop Minister Pyne from pulling the Gonski funding principles and inventing his own.  We were outraged and rightly so and our voices made a difference.

But the NT will be ‘doing a Pyne’  – inventing its own funding allocation plan.  And they have bad – very bad  – form on this.  Remote Indigenous Communities – parents, students, and teachers will see none of the benefits flowing from our successful campaigns to reinstitute Gonski, unless our voices are heard on this.

Can you please pressure your local politicians to seek a nationally applied needs based funding model in Australia, one that is transparent and accountable.  This is not ‘command and control from Canberra’. This is responsible Government.  We should expect no less. Especially when the issue is so important.