This column was published in the NT Suns in May 2017


The ability of education departments and schools to cater for the needs of children with learning challenges is an issue again making headlines. Over the past few days, news has surfaced suggesting that Australia-wide, 270,000 students with disabilities fail to meet criteria for additional funding. They are in schools and mainstream classrooms without being supported by additional funding.

Northern Territory schools are supporting students with special learning needs in the best ways possible. However, additional funding has become harder and harder to obtain. Schools have to manage from within their overall budgets and this is stretching their capacity to manage the specific needs of special students.

Some of our schools have supportive learning units with a teacher and assistant. Staff work within the school by offering some help to special needs students who are in mainstream classes. The special needs assistant often works with students in classrooms or small groups. They move from class to class on a strictly timetabled basis with their additional assistance being for a limited time on each occasion.

Supportive learning teachers often act as school advisers to classroom teachers who have special needs students in their classes. Their prime role is helping with the development of teaching strategies and student management plans. While this support is necessary and valuable, it does not lessen the increasingly diverse and challenging teaching loads placed on classroom teachers.

The Government and Education Department have made special education a priority area within NT education. Special needs schools in Darwin and Palmerston (Nemarluk, Henbury Avenue and Bellamack) have been constructed. Capital works programs have allowed regional units have been developed, with these facilities and programs helping to provide for students needing additional support.

The criteria for enrolment in special schools are quite stringently applied and cannot be met by many students. Special needs students in ordinary schools are often unable to meet criteria for additional in class support. This is happening because the guidelines are changing and being rigorously applied. Stresses notwithstanding, it is expected that teachers will cope.

Educational policies are constantly evolving and it will be interesting to see how future needs for students with special needs are met.


This column was published in the NT Suns in May 2017



The way in which staffing works in NT schools can be difficult to understand. One issue recently raised (‘Teachers in class limbo’ NT News May 11) pointed out that the number of teachers on temporary contracts in our schools appears to be growing.

Temporary status poses problems for teacher lifestyle, particularly in the area of housing. Unless educators have a steady income they find it extremely hard to negotiate home loans and this locks them out of the home purchase market.

Temporary contract employment is an outcome of Department of Education organisation. Over time, permanently employed teachers may take maternity leave, long service leave, family leave, or lengthly sick leave. Their absences create temporary vacancies in classrooms which have to be filled. However, those appointed can only be offered end-dated contracts because permanent officers are entitled to return to their positions at the end of leave periods.

This issue is one that creates uncertainty for schools, students and for teachers on short term contracts. School principals and staffing officers within the Department of Education do their best to ensure that end-dated contract teachers are offered contract opportunities in other schools. They aim to support staff about to become unemployed so there is no break in their service. This of course does not overcome the issue of teacher changes for students and schools.

The matter is exacerbated by staffing policies in rural and remote schools. Personal and family circumstances mean that many CDU graduates, relief and contract teachers are not able to accept positions in schools outside urban centres. In order to attract teachers to rural and remote schools the Education Department has to offer inducements. Two of these are the early offer of permanency and an undertaking that after a few years, efforts will be made to place these teachers in urban schools. This adds to pressures on the offering of permanent positions to contract teachers in Darwin, Palmerston and Alice Springs.

The Education Department has periodically offered permanency to contract teachers, holding them against the system rather than schools. This goodwill gesture has meant that excellent temporary teachers have had to move on because permanent officers have appointment priority to urban schools.

The issue of staffing is vexed. There will always be winners and unfortunately some losers.



Over the years, “steady state” advancement and predictability have not been hallmarks of education. Nowhere is this better illustrated then in respect of providing physical facilities.

Prior to 2000, it was extremely difficult to obtain capital works money for major school improvements. Budgets were limited and competition for building programs quite fierce. Rejection and deferments of funding submissions were common and approvals rare. It was not unusual for a program costed at say $4 million, to be funded to a level of $2 or $3 million without the full amount being approved.

Applications for Minor New Works had no guarantee of being approved. Repairs and maintenance money carried qualifications and could not be used for everything that needed fixing. In total, the amount of money available for capital needs was strictly rationed.

This all changed when the Gillard Government introduced the ‘Building Educational Revolution’ to support and upgrade school infrastructure. From that point in time onward money has been poured at schools, but with the proviso that it be used for construction of physical facilities.

In the NT, Gonski funding came unattached to requirements that it be spent on classroom focussed programs. This allowed the NT Government to use the money for capital works. Henbury Avenue and Bellamack Special Schools were constructed using this money, while Acacia Hills (Alice Springs) was significantly upgraded.

Weekly reading of tender invitations in the ‘NT News’ confirms bountiful dollars still being found to support the extension of school infrastructure

Most recently, the Northern Territory Government has promised $300,000 to each Northern Territory school. However that money has to be used for physical upgrades and capital expansion.

There needs to be more to education expenditure then supporting the construction industry. While good physical facilities are necessary, so to are programs that best support students and staff in teaching learning situations.

It’s ironic to consider that schools have to constantly and minutely scrutinise internal budget management for the sake of teaching and learning. If the recent $300,000 per school allocation could be used to support these programs, that may have been a wise investment. It is the way in which students are educated now that will translate toward the future of our Northern Territory.

Educational expenditure needs to be balanced. Facilities are important, but teaching and learning programs are really what education is about.

ABC COMMENTS Texts sent to ABC over time and read on air


Texts sent to ABC over time and read on air

Far too many children are left in limbo from broken homes. It would be good if people thought a little more about having children before launching into parenthood. Second best in life confronts too many children.


The Four Corners story last night was horrifying. These actions should never have happened. It is terribly sad that regular detention was magnified to include brutalisation. It would be great if family care and responsibility for young people was such that young people were not confronted by court proceedings and correctional institutions. Sadly, courts will continue to adjudicate because a percentage of young people will offend. Hopefully though, there will be an end to inhuman treatment levied on those in detention.

What will people becoming aware of this issue think of correctional policies for youth in the NT.


There are two distinct issues in this scenario. Young people who offend against people and property must have their offences dealt with in law. However there is no place for the thuggish behaviour of corrections personnel nor for the deliberate lie staff told about the Don Dale ‘riot’. I also feel empathy for those decent young people and decent corrections services staff whose reputations are tarnished by the actions of their membership minorities.


I worry about the fact that so many of these young people go off the rails in their foundational years. It seems that the basic family unit of Mother and Father let too many children drift from very young ages into pathways that lead to apprehension for criminal behaviours. We have many parents who bring their children up carefully and others who lack this responsibility. The Royal Commission should look at what happens on the home front. That is where the genesis of this issue starts.


What Charlie King of suggesting is eminently sensible. As a person who worked in communities and as somebody who takes a continuing interest in what’s happening with Indigenous Matters, I absolutely agree with this suggestion and hope it gets purchase among decision-makers.


Peter Chandler is a decent and honest man and does not deserve to be placed in an untenable position. He should not be the “fall guy” for the CLP in this dire time of its history.

As Terry Mills was challenged, who is to say that Peter Chandler would not be similarly targeted should he become leader of this government.


The Giles Government changed the voting rules and advertising parameters surrounding the upcoming election. That is all about trying to create an environment that maximised his government’s chances of survival at the polls.

I don’t think it will work.


Along with many Territorians, I wish Terry Mills the best on his election quest.

The different yet refreshing thing about NT politics is that one gets to know the people behind the parties. This throws a different perspective and appreciation onto matters political. Terry Millls is and always has been a sincere person driven by the best of intentions. His desire to be a returned representative of Blain Electors is the halllmark of this man’s honesty and integrity.


In 2014, the CLP in a high handed and quite draconian manner, swept universal senior concessions into history. This has impacted on many seniors. Their living costs have been escalated. The CLP’s intention to offer all seniors $500 biannually to assist travel is like giving back 10 cents for each dollar taken away in 2014. Not fair and nowhere near good enough.

I hope tonight’s forum for Seniors will show how concerned people are at the high handed and in empathetic hand they have been dealt.

Henry Gray

Ian Abbott or Katrina Fong Lim should hear this story and organise a citizenship ceremony for this good man today.

This matter should be above politics. It MUST be fixed today.


Do you or your parties have plans to make parents more accountable for the behaviour of their juvenile and adolescent children.


What’s done is done. Paramount to the whole issue of the Barrett affair was his indiscretion. His action had consequences. Time to leave that matter behind and move on. It has become a red herring and obfuscating matter.

In real time, only four days to the election. I can’t wait and neither can I wait for it to be over.


Senior concessions should be reinstated in full for those who have lost them and become a benefit for those who reach the age that confers senior status. Both CLP and Labor are offering bitsy programs that nowhere compensate costs in any subsidised sense. The travel but is FAR less necessitious than support with utilities and vehicle licensing costs.


A portent of things to come on the Labor victory dais on Saturday night. CM elect Michael Gunner with Lauren Moss, Ken Vowels and Nicole Manison. Four Territory born Politicans leading the Territory, along with others who joined them, also NT born and bred. Having locals lead us augurs well for the future.

I feel that the openness, honesty and transparency being proposed by CM Elect Michael Gunner, the elements that gel as trust, place us in a position where renewal can begin.


Peter Chandler is a decent man. Hope things work out for him. He is one of a very few in the last government I have always respected.


Good luck to Gary and Lia. They face big barriers but have the capacity and pizzaz to carry the day. They are people with lateral vision and are not self centred. We need people like them and their contribution will be Territory enriching. Go well.


A huge body of past reports have dealt with the issues being pursued by this Royal Commission. Those reports go back to 1976. Had those reports been actioned this $50 million exercise would have not been needed. I’ll bet that the findings of this commission, when they come in, will be largely disregarded.


Robyn Lambley is a conviction Politican. She was elected as Robyn Lambley and not as a member of a party. She will find a way of continuing to be what she is, an outstanding representative for her electorate. I am sure she will be respected and supported in her role by the Gunner government.


Michael Gunner asked Kezia Purich To remain as speaker in the new parliament. Her acceptance of this invitation augurs well for the months ahead. Ms Purich conducts the business of the parliament in and impartial and realistic manner. She will keep the parliament settled and focused. This is just what we need as we enter a new Parliamentary era.


Travelling on public buses in Darwin is to take a calculated risk about arriving safely. Drivers are powerless and protections offered them and passengers very scant. There should be an authorised person on each bus who is empowered to take corrective action. To say there are few problems is a deliberate understatement.


We are in for exciting times because of changes to parliamentary process on sitting days. The next four years should be refreshing and invigorating. I feel a period of benevolent autocracy coming on, where the CLP rump together with Independents feel valued and wanted.


Why is Kormilda being called an Aboriginal Boarding School when all the issues on funding seem to be about other than Indigenous students? Why is the shortfall in the boarding school funding component being blamed for the whole of school issues that are not related to boarding?


I feel that we could be on the edge of positive change with the Gunner Government going forward. The worst thing that could happen would be for the re-emergence of the disconnection that existed between the last government and voting Territorians. May the new government go well.


The new government will do a wonderful job and will take careful note of what the experienced independents feel about issues. Ms Lambley’s careful advice will be considered as will that of all others. The government will be wanting to avoid mistakes.


Darwin’s Lord Mayor Katrina Fong Lim has declared that the $10,000 spent to create the Esplanade bike lane and now the $10,000 it will cost to remove it, is not a waste of money. She declared the exercise has taught Council and the community heaps. One thing it HAS taught the community is that Council does not mind making hasty, ill informed decisions that waste rate money in an almost frivolous manner.


It could take the CLP a long time to recover from its self inflicted decimation. However the ALP ought not rest in its laurels as Territorians are restless about the policies and practices of major parties. Maybe our future is toward a consensus government model of the type Gerry Woods has studied and discussed.


There were few celebrations on completing Year 12 exams in WA in the early 1960’s. It was a case of sitting around or working around waiting for results which were mailed toward the very end of the next January.

How things change


I reluctantly agree that the ‘pain plane’ scenario does hold credence. Over time I have had several operations in Darwin. Emergency surgery at RDH backfired badly, necessitating a further corrective operation for hernia infliction that has only been partially successful. Before working on the hernia, my surgeon had to attempt correcting massive gut adhesions that happened during my initial surgery. Thank God I am old and will not have to live with what remains my disfigurement for as long as might have been the case.


How great it is to appreciate and celebrate Waldo the Bush Poet’s 75th birthday. Waldo and his wife Sue have done a huge amount to share our Territory through poetic and literary outreach. They are icons and ambassadors who have always put the Territory first. Happy birthday Waldo and thanks. Henry

As a past resident of Nhulunbuy and being aware of East Arnhem organisation, I believe Yingiya Mark Guyula’s election has to be voided and a bi-election put in place. This is the only way to satisfy processes. Laws are for all. There were many people in outlying areas and 300 voters in Nhulunbuy who did not vote last time. I hope they wake up to the need to cast their votes at bi-election time.


The Australian Parliament HAS to resolve the Backpacker Tax issue promptly. Grandstanding and posturing has already placed our agricultural industry in jeopardy. Unless the matter is resolved this vital sector of our Territory economy will be consigned to hell in a handcart.


Our student cohort is a real mix of students. Discipline and respect issues are a clear drawback to teaching and learning. There are teachers who say that 80% of their classroom time goes into discipline not into teaching.

We need a slimmed down and focussed educational curriculum. Teachers are too often faced with the need to be pseudo parents to children and that is a significant distractor from the teaching role.

Also, revisit the past to see what worked and what didn’t.


Exceptional principals leading schools with fantastic teachers who relate well to students. Yes a real
need bit one wonders if that can happen especially in remote areas.


Today’s backpacker tax scenario proves how bloody minded, how unprincipled and how uncaring politicans of all persuasions are for the wellbeing and good of this country. They do not give a rats but would prefer to postulate, grandstand and play ridiculous brinkmanship games. They are dragging our agricultural industry to the very edge if ecomnomic perdition.

This will come back to haunt the major parties at all upcoming state and re next federal election.


The whole issue of tooing, froing and yo- yo-ing on the Backpacker Tax is mind blowing for the arrant stupidity and bloody minded intent of our federal politicans.

My thoughts are with our suffering and harassed farmers and tourist providers under siege at the moment for want of guaranteed labour.

And what a pity that far too many of our own homegrown youth and adults who could provide labour for these industries either can’t or won’t.

Something has to give and I hope resolution happens today.


Crime is out of control and Darwin/Palmerston cities are cities of victims. Terry Mills is on the money with his comments about respect coming from standards and structure. A great deal of the issue is about education pandering after every new initiative. Focus on core areas of need in academic and character developmental domains. Skip the tinsel and glitter bits.


Dear Chief Minister

Do you believe that the Royal Commission into Child Detention and corrections is really necessary? Might it not be better to establish a group to accept the plethora of reports already existing on this issue, prioritise their recommendations and begin implementation? The Commission will simply reaffirm the deficits about which we already know.

All the best for ongoing governance. You and your ministers have started well.

Henry Gray

The Gonski funding came to the NT. It was spent on major new works. It could go to these construction programs as the NT was not required to sign fir its use in classrooms supporting teaching and learning programs.


Our cities and towns are full of victims. Those with nocturnal intent set a sad social agenda that includes breaking in, stealing goods and cars and wreaking havoc. Next day the community sets about cleaning up while the nefarious are asleep getting ready for the next night’s foray.

It is that bad.


Good morning Adam.

Baby boomers were all those born between 1.1. 1946 and 31.12.1964. Those prior to 1946 were born into the ‘Frugal Generation’.


There are two sides to the young people in custody issue. On the one hand, we are asked to think about and consider their redevelopment and rehabilitation needs.

On the other hand there are scores of people who have been made victims of the crimewave these youth have perpetrated and continue to maintain.

The negative social agenda set by these miscreants has them out and taking the night apart. The next day, ordinary citizens have to go about recovery and mopping up the devastation created. Meanwhile, these serial offenders are regrouping, sleeping and getting ready for the next night of wreaking havoc. How can this go on indefinitely?


Graylands Teachers’. College where I trained had ‘Non Nobis Solum’ as its motto. That translates as ‘Not for ourselves alone’. I thought it was a significant aim, one that underpinned teaching motivation.

It was certainly something that I tried to remember for the whole of my teaching life.


Good morning Adam

I wanted to wish NT school staff and students all the best for the end of year holiday break. Most certainly earn this time as a period of respite and relaxation. Hope they have a good time away from teaching and learning.


Good Morning Adam,

One of the downsides of people living longer is that of younger generation is not being able to wait to climb what used to be their inheritances.

Evidence of this is in the increasing amount of crime against the elderly by their children who carry out manipulations in order to get a hold of what they think should be theirs.

I’d be willing to bet this will become worse.

The new vulnerability for those who are aging?


When it’s damp it’s the frogs. With the sun out after rain it is the cicadas. We have been blessed in our part of Leanyer with a cicada chorus on fine days from dawn until dusk.

Maybe it is time for a combined cicada- frog choir. At the very least it is an environmental take-off of part of response singing.


Step by step the ABC has retracted service to remote and regional areas. While iView and digital stuff is ‘wonderful ‘ programs that supported regions (stateline for one) have pulled back but by bit. The same goes for loss of regional radio programs. Don’t worry, we quickly forget what we have lost.


I would imagine for the Lord Mayor to be first in the new Parap
Pool, she would have to win the Lord Mayoral election in August first.


One asks whether these young criminals are self motivated or is their behaviour being influenced by faganlike adults.


The Greek School example is a great one. It shows that the community that makes the effort can ensure that language and cultural specifics live and flourish. Other ethnic groups and those wanting to preserve indigenous language and culture should take note and copy the Greek Community example.


Good morning CM.

On policing and prevention. Surely the time is right for school based policing to be effectively reinstated. Its downsizing and classification of school based constables to be considered as youth engagement officers, detracted from the program.

Would you look at moving in this direction?


The Chief Minister’s announcement yesterday, if implemented, will start heading the issue of youth crime in the right direction. However, dysfunctional parents should be obligated to join the process. I am hearing little about the responsibility that should be sheeted home to those who brought these children into the world.

Let us NOT forget or overlook the fact that the vast majority of children are fine young people whose reputations (as young people) are being besmirched by the actions of this small but constant minority of offenders.


I am sure the police do not taser indiscriminately. Police are well and truly behind the right ball at the moment when it comes to countering youth inspired crime, being in catch up mode.

They have to be supported in their endeavours.

Consider young offenders are fleet of foot. They have to be stopped.

Michael Gunner’s position about tasering is spot on.


Help, help I am confused about hospital parking. It’s free, it’s not, fines can be applied, they can be waived. It is all too much for a poor old man to comprehend.


It’s a great pity that FIFO has gripped Alyangula on Groote Island. This one is vibrant and alive town is gradually withering and dying.

That is symptomatic of a far too many regional centres in the Northern Territory. It seems that all towns outside Darwin and Palmerston and maybe Alice Springs are fast becoming ‘yesterday centres.’


Without gambling, excessive use of alcohol and drugs there would be no poverty and a lot lot less welfare dependency. Henry

I wake up each morning wondering which shopping centre, restaurant, or commercial businesses have been smashed and vandalised overnight. There seems to be a major property violation every 24 hours. This year, millions of dollars worth of damage have been inflicted by these nighttime vandals. Will it NEVER stop?



John Lawrence needs to take note of the fact that people have had enough. These miscreants and bail breachers know EXACTLY what they are doing. They are playing a game of ‘cat and mouse’ every night. Our cities of victims have had enough.


I worked in Aboriginal Communities in the 1970s and 1980s. Cards were all the go then, as they are now! But tell me, if the money stays within the community where does it all go? It’s not the self same money that’s going around and around but new money coming in, some from royalties, most from pensions. So in essence the money is not benefiting the community but certainly vanishing somewhere.

That money, then and now, is certainly not being spent on food, the betterment of children or anything else that is positive. It is feeding a chronic habit.


To Palmerston
Mayor and Aldermen.

Grow up and stop acting like naughty children.

Fulfil your elected responsibilities and lead properly.

Set an example worthy of emulation and stop shaming the positions to which you were elected.


My thanks to the Darwin Energency Services committee for being there as the watchful and warning eye for we Top Enders. You give unstintingly of your time and energy and are appreciated.

Far better to be forewarned than to be caught short through lack of preparation and readiness.


It matters not whether Dan Murphy’s comes to Darwin or not, the excesses of alcohol will continue to be the ruination of many and a blight on the Territory community.


The Govt is NOT fearmongering about crime. In all my years in the NT from the 1970’s, criminal behaviour has never been so much out of control. Neither has apprehending authority seemed more powerless. It might be a game to those who wreak havoc but to business and car owners the reality of loss is desolating and seemingly, never ending. The fitting by police of bracelets to those bailed is timely. I hope and pray it helps reduce the outcomes of the never-ending crime wave on people, property and possessions.


The overall picture is that things are getting better. Utter rubbish.

Crime is abysmal and getting worse. Hardly a night goes by without property being smashed and cars stolen.

Crime needs to go down and stay down.

There IS a crime wave and make no mistake about that being the case.


Make no mistake, the percentage of old ones like me is on the rise.

Retention of grandparents is critical.

Reinstatement of seniors concessions stripped away in 2014 by the Gules Government should be reinstated.

We chronologically enhanced ones are a positive sub set of Territorians, helping ground this place in terms of population balance.



This paper was published in the NT Suns in May 2017


Public servants in the NT have a number of benefits attached to their employment. Included are superannuation and leave entitlements. Teachers and those working in schools often commence as supply or relief staff. In most instances superannuation and leave needs are recognised and built into the terms and conditions of their employment. Because of portability, these benefits transfer with them as they move from one school to another.

Over time, those involved with education are usually offered permanent status. Each year, three weeks of sick leave are added to the entitlement of each staff member. This leave accumulates year on year.

Health and family issues (for instance illness of family members) mean that some people need to quite regularly access their leave entitlements. However, there are many who use very little of their leave. It is not unusual for those who have been working for many years to have accumulations of up to 100 weeks of sick leave, that can be used if necessary.

When retiring or resigning from the public service, accumulated annual leave is cashed out to those who are departing. Long service leave that has built up, is generally included in the employee’s final pay package. Depending on circumstances which include the employee’s age, superannuation is either preserved or paid out.

For government employees, unused sick leave is not included in this package. I know of people who have retired or left employment with up to and over 100 weeks of sick leave credits. When they retire this entitlement is forfeited.

Because this leave provision will be lost upon retirement people may think about taking leave they would not usually consider. This would reduce sick leave benefits before employees leave the work force. It would force schools to employ relief staff or short term contract teachers. That would impact on school budgets and children in some classes, the latter because of teacher change.

It may be time to change the way in which sick leave provisions are treated. Paying a percentage of accumulated leave on a pro-rata basis would be fair and equitable. It would also reward those who have judiciously managed their sick leave.
The payment of a day’s salary for every week of accumulated sick leave would be my suggestion. A retiree with 60 weeks of leave would receive a payment equivalent to 60 days of final salary.

This would offer fair and equitable recognition to all those who have been prudent in managing sick leave.