Niangala Public School
|About this Item||Subjects||Schools; Sport and Recreation; Education
||Speakers||Draper Mr Peter
||Business||Private Members Statements
Mr DRAPER (Tamworth) [1.27 p.m.]: It is with great pride that I speak to the House today about the community of Niangala, within the electorate of Tamworth. Niangala is a very strong little community, but it needs the help of the New South Wales Government. Niangala may not have many people living in its village, but they all are very strong advocates for the area, and the school community is particularly proud of its education facility. Niangala sits in the Great Dividing Range, between Tamworth and Taree. It is geographically isolated, situated among tall pine tree plantations that are grown for the local timber industry. Niangala Public School has just 25 students in kindergarten to year 6. Some children travel more than an hour each way, most along bumpy dirt roads, to get to school and back home every day. The school is split into two composite classes, each with its own fabulous teacher.
Niangala may be a small school, but the teachers, students and their parents are incredibly proud of what they have created. Just last week, I met with the students, teachers and parents on yet another cool day in the mountains. They took me on a tour of the school to show me their trophies, their learning environment and a garden built in honour of one young student who tragically lost his life in an accident. This is a deeply proud school and one that has the full backing of the local district. Yet for such a strong school, its outdoor facilities are very poor. Despite the best efforts of parents and teachers, students have nowhere to play but on a small, sloping, uneven grass field every day. On its main recreation area, which measures some 33 metres by 25 metres, the school has improvised a practice cricket pitch, and there are goal posts at either end. When playing T-ball, touch or minkey hockey, the safety of students is put at risk due to the surface. This corrugated grass playing field is even surrounded by wire fences. The principal has been forced to provide a couple of tree stumps so she can jump the fence whenever a ball lands on the other side. It is only a matter of time before somebody is seriously hurt.
To improve safety, parents and teachers want to build a large hardcourt area on the lower portion of the schools grounds. At the moment, they have no outside concrete area so whenever it rains, which is reasonably common in the mountains, students are forced inside. They have no large covered play area and even when the sun is shining it takes days for the grounds to dry out after rain. I believe this would be one of very few schools in such a position in New South Wales. The students and teachers at Niangala Public School deserve a large hardcourt area. I have recently written to the Department of Education and Training asking for funding to be made available for this project. I hope the New South Wales Government recognises how a small amount of funding could help a small isolated school. Similar worthwhile projects such as this have been made possible through the Country Area Program [CAP] for two other schools in my area. I wholeheartedly support the CAP, but I firmly believe the eligibility criteria should be expanded to include Niangala Public School.
As I have mentioned, Niangala is geographically isolated. It is accessed by dirt roads, which also need to be upgraded, and it is more than 50 kilometres from any major town. The schools of Yarrowitch and Nowendoc fully deserve funding under the CAP. While they are slightly further away from a town, they can be reached more quickly as they are accessed via good quality tarred roads. If those schools are rightfully included, I strongly believe that Niangala should also be included in the CAP. The population of Niangala and many other parts of my electorate are again living through a cold, bleak winter. It often snows in Niangala, and the temperature is so cold that the water in the pipes at Niangala Public School often freezes. This water would normally be used for the taps and toilets in the student's bathrooms. Students cannot wash their hands after using the bathroom in the middle of winter, creating a real health hazard.
The representations of the Niangala Public School Parents and Citizens Association to the Department of Educationa and Training to install a water heater have been dismissed as an unnecessary luxury. I wonder what the attitude of the Department of Health would be? I ask that the Government review this situation as a matter of urgency to avoid a very real health risk for these students. When one looks at each of these issues, one sees that they are relatively small and each one should be simple to fix. In fixing these small problems, there is a lot to gain. The Government has a real opportunity here to put a little bit back into a community that has been neglected for too long. In return, this little community will continue to thrive and the pride for which this area is so famous will only grow stronger. I ask the Government to give serious consideration to these requests.