Campaign to save Ballerrt Mooroop College wins partial victory

The hard fought campaign to save Melbourne's only school for Indigenous students has won a partial victory. The Liberal Government Education Minister and the Save Ballerrt Mooroop College Committee have agreed on a compromise whereby the schools spirit tree and cultural area will be retained. However the school gym will be demolished. There are plans to build a new "Gathering Place" on the site however. This campaign has involved a small group of incredibly committed campaigners camping out in the school gym and picketing the site over the last few months. A fundraising concert on the 16th September became a celebration of the campaign's success and also raised $2000 which will go towards building the new Gathering Place.
Related: Campaign website -- GLW Weekly article on campaign win -- Campaign Facebook page -- Treaty Republic coverage

Below is an account of the outcome from the campaign website

Cultural Area to stay - Gathering Place goes but ... The Gymnasium/Gathering Place to be demolished

The Victorian Minister of Education, Martin Dixon, has agreed to a recently negotiated compromised plan that keeps the spirit tree and cultural area. The 'Gathering Place' (Gym) will be demolished but 2/3rds of its land will remain on the BMC side of the fence thus allowing a new community hub to be built there or somewhere else on the site (see 'Gathering Place' Vision).

The Ballerrt Mooroop College Committee (BMCC) were desperate to save the Gymnasium/Gathering Place and many protestors, including BMC Committee members camped overnight in the building throughout the past few months to protect it from demolition.

The building, as was other Victorian government school buildings built in the same period, has a considerable amount of asbestos built into it - the BMCC plan was to replace the asbestos in a proposed renovation.

However, throughout the 'compromise' negotiation process BMCC was required to concede the loss of the very important and valued dual purpose indoor community centre, but saving the spiritual tree and outdoor cultural area is considered a small but significant win. The arrogant and aggressive land grab by the Grenroy Specialist School development program onto BMC's land was carried out at the hands of the Infrastructure Division of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, and under the previous Labor Minister of Education, Bronwyn Pike.

Although at this early stage when the final 'Statement of Reasons' is yet to be received by the current Minister, it appears that the general education of Indigenous children complimented with Indigenous culture has been respected

The decision for a new 'Gathering Place' building is still under discussion but it appears quite feasible to obtain the relevant funding for a new multi-function building for school use and a hub for Indigenous community educational, cultural and recreational activities. BMCC already has some money set aside for this purpose and with further Local, State and Federal funding, a significant and appropriate building is envisaged.

The new 'Gathering Place' may be named in honour of Paster Sir Doug Nicholls and his wife Gladys. Paster Nicholls has a history of involvement and support of Indigenous education on the school site in the 1950's.

The Save Ballerrt Mooroop College Campaign

This is definitely a win for the Ballerrt Mooroop College Committee and their friends and supporters. A big Thank You to everybody who helped in any way.

Considering what BMCC were facing three months ago this looks to be a very positive outcome and allows Indigenous children in the greater Melbourne region the opportunity to learn about and repect their culture.

Once again Indigenous people are required to fight for their rights and once again they lose something in the process of the battle. However, the school council is hard working and rigid in their focus on a positive future for their children.

Local Residents

The local residents have lost the open spaces for recreational activities and the outcome is disastrous for them. Whilst the new buildings for the Glenroy Specialist School is under construction the activity and noise levels has already forced one unwell resident to move away from the area. There was considerable anger expressed by the locals who wanted to keep their open space for recreational activities. The green area was an excellent and safe playing and sporting area for their children and well used for residents walking their dogs.

We thank the local residents for their support in the 'Save Ballerrt Mooroop College Campaign'.

Letter from Minister

This is a brief note to let you all know that I have tonight agreed to proceed with the revised plan that you have all been negotiating over these last two weeks. I have appreciated the goodwill and leadership that all you have all brought to the discussion.

I am confident that the outcome will now be of benefit to all the students at both schools and to the community. I look forward to the realisation of this important project.

Best wishes and thanks,
Martin Dixon Minister for Education.