This column was published in the NT Sun on April 17 2018



It often seems those who have been involved with educational developments and direction in the Northern Territory are completely discounted. What has happened in past years has either been completely overlooked or altogether forgotten. In relation to facilities, curriculum emphasis, staff and student development, community engagement, and other key areas, it seems that education is always in the “planning“ stage.

It is common for ideas to be raised as “new initiatives“ when in fact they are revisitations to what has been tried (and often discarded) in the past.

In part this has to do with the fact that the history of education in the Territory has been so poorly recorded. There are some records scattered in various libraries and archives but they are not readily available to current decision-makers. In 2009 when becoming the CEO of Education in the NT, Gary Barnes commented upon the fact that he was coming in “blind”. There was very little documented history he could access in order to familiarise himself about the system he was inheriting. At the time there was hope something might be done to rectify the situation. There was a proposition developed by some within Education’s Executive Group suggesting resources be given to documenting history. However, that thought faded very quickly.

In 2014 the Education Department planned on developing a visual display that focused on the contribution of CEOs from 1978 when the NT accepted responsibility for education from the Australian Government. Time, energy, effort and money was put into this development but it was subsequently shelved because of a change in government and Education’s CEO.

The Department of Education has a detailed website. It would be great if “history“ and “past development“ could be included, with people invited to read and contribute to an understanding about educational development in the NT. While this site would need to be periodically monitored and moderated, an invaluable history could be established in a relatively short period of time. This suggestion has been raised in the past without ever going anywhere!

The paradox is that many people with rich experience, are not able to share these for the benefit of the Territory nor for the awareness of incoming educators. With the passing of time, those with knowledge either leave the Northern Territory or pass on. Sadly the knowledge and understanding they could contribute, departs with them. I hope this might be corrected but don’t imagine that will happen any time soon.



This piece was published in the NT Sun on April 3 2018.



School educators and the Council of Government Schools Organisation (COGSO) have realised a sad truth recently spelt out in the NT News (School calling for cop program March 17). The once strong and trend setting School Based Constables (SBC) program in NT schools has been rationalised and diminished.

This program has been reduced to a shadow of what it used to be. “COGSO president Tabby Fudge said the program had changed to a point where there was little benefit (to schools).” (Op cit)

Until watered down, the program offered strong support to urban, town and some rural schools. Attached to high schools, each School Based Constable had a number of feeder primary schools he or she attended. Constables would visit their schools to conduct Drug and Alcohol Education (DARE) classes with children. They extended their role to include stranger danger awareness and issues such as bullying. Children used to appreciate ‘their’ constable in a way that helped them build positive feelings toward police. In turn, constables learned a lot that added to their awareness of community matters. Many potential problems were nipped in the bud because of advanced warning about situations that might eventuate.

No words can mask the fact that this program has been significantly dismantled. School Based Police are now known as Community and Youth Engagement Officers (CYEO’s). They are no longer based in schools but visit (a lot less frequently than in the past) from suburban and town police stations. DARE programs have lapsed, along with the contribution SBC’s made to the sharing of children’s learning and the development of their attitudes.

Chief Minister Gunner, who is also the Police Minister said, “… police are still involved with youth, it is just being done in a different way.” (Op cit) The new way is a watered down version of the original program.

The ‘personality’ of this program, was such that while adults may have had adverse thoughts about police, their children were developing positive attitudes about the force.

A point of alarm is that the training of police to fill this particular role has been largely discontinued. It may not be long before the program, one of Territory significance and copied by state and overseas jurisdictions, will be extinct.

The reinstatement of School Based Policing as it was previously organised, would be a step in the right direction. On April 12, COGSO’s President is meeting with Mr Gunner to urge this reinstatement. I can only hope her persuasion bears fruit.