NITV News can reveal that two South Australian schools receiving millions in state education grants, with more than $600,000 specifically provided for the ‘Improved outcomes of Aboriginal students’, have cut services and and cultural rooms for those students.
Nunga rooms have been around South Australian schools since the early 1990’s, and play a vital role in the cultural growth and education of Indigenous students.
Parents of students at Ceduna Area School said they were not consulted about the loss of the room, which has a strong cultural significance to local Indigenous students.
Alberton Primary School’s 2016 financial statement reveals they received $4 million in government funding, with an unreconciled amount of $196,000 specifically allocated towards improved outcomes for Aboriginal students. According to Ceduna Area School’s 2016 financial statement, they received a $7.4 million government grant, with an unreconciled amount of $438,000, also specifically for Aboriginal students.
One former student, whose daughter currently attends the school and wishes to remain anonymous, told NITV News that she was “shocked” to hear of the closure of the room.
“It’s not just a room, it’s a place we used to go to feel safe, and a sense of belonging – and the Nunga workers at the schools aren’t just workers, they become your aunties, uncles and mentors,” she said.
“They need to put it back to help get our kids stats up so they can complete year 12.”
Ceduna Area School principal Andrew Gravestocks told NITV News via a departmental spokesperson, that the room for senior students was closed because it wasn’t being used for its intended purpose, and that students were using it to skip classes.
“We found that senior students were not using the room in the senior section for its intended purpose and were instead using the room to avoid attending class,” he said.
“A decision was made to trial a closure of the senior room in relation to its use for student study and to conduct a review at the end of the trial period.”
He added that the resources used for the Nunga room were now spread across the school.
Alberton Primary School in Adelaide’s western suburbs has not only cut its Nunga Room, but has also cancelled its Indigenous bus service which provided local kids with a ride to and from the school.
NITV News made multiple attempts to contact the Principal of Alberton Primary School since last week to ask why the room was cut, however, we were informed that he was on sick leave this week and could not comment.
The Department of Education and Child Development claim that the closure of the Nunga Rooms had nothing to do with the Labor Government and was a matter for individual schools, however, Minister for Education, Susan Close told NITV News, that if re-elected in today's state election, a Labor government would ensure that if enrolments at Alberton Primary School grew then the dedicated Nunga classroom would remain open.
Ms Close also said that inclusivity will be reflected in schools with higher Aboriginal student enrolment numbers, so there may not be a need for a separate Nunga room.
However, both schools already have a high proportion of Indigenous students. Ceduna Area School currently has 28 per cent Indigenous students, while Alberton Primary School has 18 per cent Indigenous students.
Greens MLC and party spokesperson for Indigenous affairs and education, Tammy Franks, told NITV News the government needed to be putting more investment towards Indigenous students.
“It doesn’t matter who the minister is, any member of parliament who cares about Aboriginal education should be making sure we have more support not less," she said in a statement.
“There’s been a lot of talk of cracking down on truancy, well let’s put the money into making the schools a place children want to be instead.”