Butler praises Car and government approach on Willyama

The mould outbreak at Willyama High School has seen Barwon MP, Roy Butler, reflecting on the time in late 2020 when 50 students and staff at Wee Waa High School in the state’s north-west fell ill with symptoms consistent with exposure to mould.

But while in Broken Hill on Tuesday alongside Minister for Education and Early Learning, Prue Car, the state member said there had been a huge difference in the handling of the situation by the new state government, which he said was very positive.

“As bad luck would have it, this is the second school that I’ve had this happen in – the other was Wee Waa. The difference between how that situation was treated and this situation was treated was night and day,” Mr Butler said.

“In this Parliament, we’ve had information from the time that they became aware there was a problem. We’ve been kept involved and able to communicate with the public, able to take information from the public, feed it back into the Department and back into the Minister’s office. It’s a totally different way that this has been treated.

“There was secrecy in Wee Waa, there was a lack of acknowledgement there was a problem, there was no transparency with the information that came from various reports. There was even a reluctance to involve [NSW] Health to check the kids and check the wellbeing of the staff as well.

“I just want to point out, I want to make it very clear, this is a totally different situation in how the government has reacted, the transparency of the government, and their willingness to engage with anyone to be able to get through it.

“The communication as well that’s come out from [the Department of] Education. the engagement with teachers, the engagement with parents, the communication that’s gone out in writing, it has been a totally different way of handling a situation that has been far superior in terms of being open with the public and letting them know what’s happened as soon as information becomes available to be released.”

Of Ms Car’s remarks earlier in the week that community consultation will determine whether two high schools will remain in Broken Hill after demolition was a possible option should the independent hygienist’s report suggest it, Mr Butler says “it’s actually wise of the Minister to say that”.

“We all know that if the consultation says that there needs to be two schools, that there’ll be two schools. I’m not a betting man, but I’d be pretty happy to put a bet down that the consultation will say there needs to be two schools,” he said.

“Long-term, I’m sure there will be two schools in Broken Hill, but the consultation is an important part of the process. A minister of the government cannot just make a decision like that without going through a consultation process, without gathering information, gathering evidence.

“It’s the right thing to say and I think if you read between the lines, what I heard the Minister saying is, if the community says they want two schools, there’ll be two schools.”


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