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Byron Shire
September 18, 2021

Is the closure of Murwillumbah schools a government land grab?

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Tweed Shire Councillor and Deputy Mayor Reece Byrnes. Photo supplied

Aslan Shand

Tweed Shire Deputy Mayor Reece Byrnes (Labor) called for the decision to close four schools in Murwillumbah to be reversed.

‘I’m calling on my fellow Tweed Councillors to strongly support this motion. This decision by a broken and scandal-ridden NSW Liberal-National government is devastating for students, parents, and teachers in our community,’ he said.

‘This closure will spell certain doom for children’s education in our shire, and will likely mean job losses for our hard working teachers.’

Independent Tweed Cr Chris Cherry was re-elected as deputy mayor last week. PHOTO supplied

Tweed Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent) told Echonetdaily that she attended yesterdays announcement even though she hadn’t been invited and had only heard about it through a third party.

‘I expressed to both the Deputy Premier, Minister Mitchell, and the Board of Education representatives there, my disbelief that a decision like this could be made with no consultation with the community,’ Mayor Cherry told Echonetdaily.

Another dodgy government land grab?

Local member for Lismore Janelle Saffin (Labor) said that the NSW government has ‘blindsided the North Coast communities of Murwillumbah and the surrounding suburbs with the closure and sell-off of three public schools.’

Ms Saffin confirmed that Department of Education documents obtained through the Upper House reveals that the amalgamation of four schools in 2024 will change the staffing allocation and potentially displace teaching and support staff.

State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin. Photo Tree Faerie.

More broken promises

‘The Liberals and Nationals promised an upgrade of Murwillumbah East Public School before the last election. Instead, they will now abandon their promise and close the school completely,’ she pointed out.

Shadow Minister for the North Coast Adam Searle MLC said, ‘Now we know why the Premier and the National Party have been stalling on replacing the library and classrooms lost at Murwillumbah East Public School in the floods.

‘Despite all their hollow promises, it seems that yet more privatisation is their true agenda, not delivering for students and families in Murwillumbah.

‘This decision has been made without consultation. It has all the signs of a dirty land deal, and is not about improving educational outcomes.’

Federal Member for Richmond, Justine Elliot. Photo supplied.

Federal Labor member Justine Elliot has also weighed in on the debate saying that ‘these closures are disgraceful, shameful and wrong. Gladys Berejiklian and her rotten-to-the core Liberal-National government have cut so many services in Murwillumbah and now they’re closing all four schools.

‘These closures are all about the Liberals and Nationals selling off prime real estate to their developer mates rather than educating our children.

‘These closures come on the top of the Liberal-National Government’s cuts that have severely impacted Murwillumbah including the closure and sale of the Murwillumbah TAFE; cuts to front line services at the Murwillumbah hospital; cuts to police numbers and the closure of the Tweed Valley Women’s Service.

‘In the past weeks we’ve seen shocking evidence at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) confirming that Premier Gladys Berejiklian turned a blind eye to the corrupt business dealings of her boyfriend, Liberal MP Daryl Maguire, and didn’t report this to ICAC.

‘Now we’re seeing a shameful act of school closures by the Premier and the Liberal-National government – they’re a disgraceful rotten Government with no integrity,’ Ms Elliot said.

Murwillumbah High School will be the site of the new $100m mega campus. Image supplied

Motion to council

Deputy Mayor Byrnes says he wants Tweed Shire Council ‘to write to the Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro and National Party Tweed MP Geoff Provest condemning their decision and has put a motion to the Tweed Shire Council for them to call on the state government to .

‘The motion condemns the NSW Berejiklian/Barilaro Liberal-National Government’s decision to close all four schools in Murwillumbah and force them into one location. The motion also calls on the NSW Berejiklian/Barilaro Liberal-National Government to reverse this disastrous closure.’

Mayor Cherry has told Echonetdaily that she has ‘asked for figures on the positive outcomes of the similar school in Ballina as that would be good for the community to see.

‘It is very hard to understand how this will work on the Murwillumbah Highschool site, to spend $100m dollars redeveloping a site while it continues to operate for the 440 or so students attending there, so I would be very interested to hear the details on this and how the traffic and parking issues in particular will be addressed.’

Keep land in community hands

The choice by the NSW Liberal-National coalition to close the schools without community consultation has been roundly condemned.

‘This decision has been made without consultation. It has all the signs of a dirty land deal, and is not about improving educational outcomes,’ says Mr Searle.

‘Despite all their hollow promises, it seems that yet more privatisation is their true agenda, not delivering for students and families in Murwillumbah.’

‘This cannot be a cruel cost-cutting exercise,’ Ms Saffin said.

‘I am also seeking a guarantee that public land stays in public hands and is not flogged off to private developers.’

Tweed Deputy Mayor’s motion:

1. Tweed Shire Council condemns in the strongest terms the decision by the Berejiklian/Barilaro Liberal National NSW Government to close all four schools in Murwillumbah and force them into one location.

2. Calls on the Berejiklian/Barilaro Liberal National NSW Government to immediately reverse this decision.

3. Tweed Shire Council writes to Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest expressing condemnation for their decision to close all four schools in Murwillumbah and force them into one location.

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  1. As a teacher that was displaced from the building of the “Super School” at Ballina I can assure the teachers of the schools involved that their live will be sent into a spiral of uncertainty and anxiety.
    There will be promises that will not be met, coming together of different Teachers who have been working their own agenda’s and now find themselves competing for survival, and we no what that leads to in a human context.

    Blind Freddy can see that it’s about job cutting and removal of infrastructure and maintenance costs. I would urge all communities to jump up and down, scream and shout to get this destructive idea canned.

  2. This government merged Armidale High School with Duval High School to form Armidale Secondary College. The college is based on the site of Duval High School, near the Northern edge of Armidale. This freed up the far more valuable site of the original high school for Armidale, Armidale High. It’s located in one of the most desirable spots in town.

  3. This is outrageous. Yet another dodgy money-making plan by the Libs. Berejiklian consistently shows scant regard for areas outside of Sydney. (Yesterday, for example, she flippantly referred to an area near Grafton as ‘the middle of nowhere’!)
    Maybe she’s making up for the loss of the Powerhouse Museum sale by selling property which she’d also regard to be in ‘the middle of nowhere’ (Murwillumbah), and which might create less controversy for her.
    Most importantly, though, combining four schools into one ‘mega campus’ does not bode well for students and staff. This cannot be educationally sound.
    We need to fight this.

  4. East Muwillumbah yes. But other schools are already on high ground from floods. Been in community when Cyclone Deb hit. These schools students just went through hell. Know taking away there schools. Shame on them. More scuisides & mental health. Need more retail so kids can get. Jobs. Taken so much out of this community. All the health services. Need funding. Leave Muwillumbah alone???

  5. People should look at the facts, the science, the maths – the numbers as we are talking about schools here.

    The same people who say climate change is real…. go on about the facts prove their case. Well lets look at the actual numbers. Why are they now ignoring the truth now – the facts, the numbers, the evidence?

    The first state (Public) high school across the QLD border is PBC – has about 2000 students in it Y7- Y12. Look at the facts in that public school website – look at the sporting success, their school band, enormous variety of clubs and co-curricular activities and sports the students have available to them.

    How many combined student in each little school are we combining? A lot less than 2000 students.

    Also having a school in a flood zone is not the best location for a school – fact. Move the children to higher ground is sensible.

    The NSW government has not publicly explained their decision very well – but it may have been the recommendation of the impartial non political Department of NSW Education. But in some way they don’t have to they are the government the state elected. Do we need a state vote any time the government makes a decision on any topic or do we vote once – let them govern and then vote them out in 4 years time if we disagree with their performance?

    There are costs and benefits of every decision. The benefits should be made more clear. I respect all people having a say and maybe a compromise of 4 small schools into 2 locations could be considered. I just need to see the numbers enrolled, the facts, the heights above sea level and the probability of floods etc

    • Right, so as a student who goes to one of the schools that will be merged, I can say that this is HORRIBLE for a students education. I went to school during the school shutdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic due to personal reasons, and I learnt much more thoroughly when there were fewer students. This was because I could work at my own pace and the teachers could pay more attention to MY learning.

      And what do you believe is more important? Learning properly in a positive learning environment and being proficient at all aspects of learning? Or being cramped in a class with 34 other children and being good at sports and music?


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