What would you do if you saw a 3-year-old health inspector’s report recommending immediate testing of school grounds for asbestos, and after polite inquiries, authorities refused to tell you whether the testing was done?
The report also stated that students were seen tossing about pieces of suspected asbestos. What would you do if Indigenous parents came to you asking to protect their children, and your own children were attending the school?
What would you do after being told that testing would commence shortly, nothing happened -- you were suddenly dumped from the school and the Education Department ignored your requests for further information?
That is precisely what happened at Alekarenge School in 2008. It is a national disgrace and a slap in the face to every Territory parent. How many other remote territory schools has this happened at?
What’s more, after I raised the issue in The Australian, a DET spokesman said that all of the report’s recommendations had been implemented. Ten months of enquiries by the Northern Territory Ombudsman was unable to confirm that any of the report's recommendations were carried out -- and there is no record of testing being done.
When deflecting criticism of remote schools, DET is fond of taking the position that it was an isolated incident. We not only contacted top DET officials who ignored us, but the then CEO and Education Minister. No one properly investigated our claims. There can be no acceptable excuse.
My message to you is this: hold the Education Department accountable – and if you don’t – you have no right to criticize DET again. If you do not take a stand on this issue, when will you – after some tragedy when people ask the questions we are asking now? What could be more important than knowing about serious threats to the health and safety of children, and not acting in a timely manner?