ADJOURNMENT MATTER — Mr Tilley to ask the Minister for Education —
I wish to raise a matter for the urgent attention of the Minister for Education. The action I seek as a matter of urgency is for the minister to provide me with advice as to what steps his department is taking to address the enrolment numbers at the Falls Creek Primary School in both the short and long term. With only three days until the opening of the 2017 winter ski season, business owners at Falls Creek with children face separations from their families, disruption to their seasonal businesses and disruption to their children's education because the Falls Creek Primary School is unable to accommodate the necessary number of seasonal enrolments. I have approached the member for Northern Victoria Region in the other place Jaclyn Symes, and she is aware of the situation but seems unable to assist, but I do thank her for her assistance at this stage.
There appears to be an unwillingness on the part of the department to resolve this issue despite the recognition of Falls Creek becoming an all‑year resort facility reliant on these seasonal business owners. I am not talking about wealthy snow bunnies that use Falls Creek as their winter playground; these are the hardworking average families, many of whom have had their businesses for generations and are heavily reliant on the income of the winter season. Take for instance Jodie Spice, whose family have lived and been in business in Falls Creek for over 40 years, operating an accommodation house and retail shop and employing staff all year round. They currently have three generations living on the mountain, all passionate about Falls Creek and its development, and Jodie has been unable to enrol her children at Falls Creek Primary School for the winter season for what will be five years this year.
The school was formed by the community in 1972 and, once established, was taken over by the department. The grandchildren of these founding families are now amongst those unable to get placements. Students over the years have included Britt Cox, Australia's most successful Winter Olympian. In 2015 the minister received a letter signed by 50 people that were impacted in some way by the current limitations of the school despite recent extensions to the facility. The school is capped at 40 students. Historically the cap would have been sufficient because the number of all‑year enrolments stood at eight or nine, so there was sufficient space available for the winter students. This is no longer the case, with year‑round enrolments increasing and there being insufficient room to meet the demand for winter enrolments. I have been contacted by a number of families that face this dilemma; one family has had one student accepted and the other not.
The situation at Falls Creek is unique. It is a standalone facility by comparison to Mount Buller, which is an annexe of Mansfield, and Hotham, an annexe of Bright. It is a unique situation that requires the minister and the department to explore perhaps out‑of‑the‑box solutions to enable the education of these children to continue unhindered and allow families to stay together during winter.