PARENTS campaigning to save Moora Residential College (MRC) have cautiously welcomed WA Liberals’ announcement it will keep the facility open if it wins the next State election.
The Wheatbelt community started its relentless Save Moora College campaign in December last year following the State government’s decision to shut the residential facility’s doors in 2019 due to budgetary constraints.
State opposition leader Mike Nahan threw his support behind the MRC – the only country residential facility between Perth and Geraldton – at the WA Liberal conference this month, vowing to re-open the residential facility if it won the next election.
After Labor’s backflip on its cuts to community resource centres (CRC) two weeks ago, Dr Nahan urged Premier Mark McGowan to reconsider his decision to close the college.
“The McGowan government has been doing its level best to take the education sector backwards with its cuts to community kindergartens, cuts to funding for the Landsdale Farm School and Herdsman Wildlife Centre, cuts to funding for a range of high schools across the State and closing the Moora Residential College,” Dr Nahan said.
“Education Minister Sue Ellery said parents should be able to choose where they send their children to school, while (Regional Development) Minister (Alannah) MacTiernan claimed the government had listened to regional community concerns about the future of community resource centres.
“It’s time for the McGowan government to listen to the parents of the students of Moora Residential College, reverse their rushed decision and announce it will be kept open.”
Central Midlands Senior High School P&C president Tracey Errington welcomed Dr Nahan’s election promise, and said while the campaign was not aligned with any political party, it was pleasing to have support from the opposition.
However, Ms Errington said the decision was ultimately in the hands of the Labor Party, with the State election still several years away.
“It’s a good thing, at least we’re getting support from the other parties in keeping it open,” Ms Errington said.
“Obviously they can see what a ridiculous decision it is to close it in the first place.
“But we’re not pinning our hopes on that because that’s virtually three years down the track; if they get re-elected it’s a promise that may or may not eventuate in three years time, but to come out publicly and say that they’re going to commit that now is great.
“We still have to get the government to overturn the decision, to make sure it’s still there through continued funding.”
Ms Errington said the State government’s decision to continue funding CRCs had given Moora campaigners some hope for MRC’s future.
With the cost to maintain the college open estimated to be in the vicinity of $500,000, according to Ms Errington, she hoped the government could find the funds to keep it open.
It is housing 25 students.
“It does give us hope, the CRC decision has taken 12 months to overturn and there are other decisions that have been overturned a lot quicker than that,” Ms Errington said.
“They really don’t have any arguments left to close it.”
Ms Ellery hit back at Dr Nahan, blaming the WA Liberals Party for not investing in the college when it held government.
She said it would cost between $7 million and $11m to keep the MRC open, a price the government was not willing to pay.
“Mike Nahan’s costings are out of whack, his policy is out of whack, he is out of whack,” Ms Ellery said.
“Mike Nahan and the Liberal/National government had more than eight years in which they could have funded and upgraded Moora Residential College, but it wasn’t considered a priority.
“He was happy to throw cash around – in fact his spending left us with the worst set of finances in history – but when it came to Moora Residential College he turned a blind eye.”