Wednesday, 22 February 2023


Outdoor education

Outdoor education

Matthew BACH (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (17:44): (54) My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Education. It is about the very worrying developments for outdoor education as a result of the new Victorian government schools agreement between the government and the Australian Education Union. There is a current process underway, and I note that. Nonetheless, the action that I seek is for the Minister for Education to update me with the exact number of outdoor education programs that have been cancelled or deferred as a result of this agreement.

Over some years now there has been widespread agreement that engagement in camps is so important, principally for the wellbeing of young people but also ultimately for their learning as well. Over such a long period of time – seven terms in a row – Victorian kids were locked out of their schools and sent home. For that period of time they did not have access to outdoor education programs, which was not only such a shame but also so stupid, because we knew at the time that transmission of the COVID virus was so unlikely outdoors. We knew that the World Health Organization had said that schools should only be closed as a last resort. That was their exact language – ‘as a last resort, in areas of intense local transmission’ – and yet across the whole state, including in regional areas, Ms Bath –

Melina Bath: Exactly, I know.

Matthew BACH: schools were shut in order to ‘level the playing field’. That was the expression that Mr Merlino used at the time, which was a strange expression looking at the recent NAPLAN results because there is no level playing field in education between kids in regional areas and kids in metro Melbourne. But nonetheless, these were the decisions of the government, so young people right across our state were denied these immensely important opportunities and they are being denied them again.

We know that Victorian parents pay more for public education than parents in any other state or territory. Now, I thought that was strange when I first read it, because my understanding was that a public school education was supposed to be free at point of service. We pay taxes – we pay quite a few of them here in Victoria – and so those of us who either send our kids to state schools or intend to, as my wife and I do next year with our little one Phoebe, would I think have a reasonable expectation that you would get, of course, a fantastic education – as you do at the vast majority of our state schools and through the vast majority of our wonderful state school teachers – but also that you would not have to pay more for it than you do already through your taxes. But I have already been advised by some principals that they are making really difficult decisions: run the camps and pass on even more costs to parents or cut the camps and deny vital learning and wellbeing opportunities for kids. So I want to know from the minister exactly how many times that has occurred so that then we can work together to seek to make sure that we keep camps running for as many kids as possible.