A RELENTLESS nine-month campaign to save the only country boarding facility between Perth and Geraldton has paid off, after the Federal government this week announced it would provide $8.7 million to keep open the doors of the Moora Residential College (MRC).
The MRC was set to close at the end of this school year after WA Education Minister Sue Ellery announced last December that an $8.7m upgrade flagged for the college would be taken off the table as part of a raft of cuts to education, in a bid to fix the State’s dire budgetary circumstances.
Save Moora College campaigners have since been fighting for $500,000 to fund urgent maintenance work for the continued safe functioning of the residential facility, which is home to 25 students who attend Central Midlands Senior High School (CMSHS).
After a sophisticated social media campaign, tireless lobbying and multiple protests on the footsteps of State Parliament, the Moora community was told on Tuesday the Federal government had decided to step in, with an $8.7m capital grant for the college’s refurbishment.
CMSHS P&C president Tracey Errington, who led the fight to save the college, said there were tears of joy at the high school when students were told their ‘home away from home’ would remain open.
“There were tears, there was laughing; it’s just awesome,” Ms Errington said.
“They’re all so excited; staff and students are just so relieved and everyone is thrilled that we’ve got our full funding for the upgrade.”
Ms Errington said the persistence and determination of the Moora community to keep the facility open was a reflection of the importance of the MRC, and the resilience of regional WA.
“It says a lot about the community fighting together for something that they believe in,” she said.
“We care about our kids, we care about our community and we weren’t prepared to just let it get steamrolled.
“We want to congratulate both the Federal government and State governments for coming to the party and reversing the decision.”
Moora Shire president Ken Seymour said he was “over the moon” that the Federal government had thrown its support behind the college, a facility he described as an essential part of the Moora community.
He said keeping the MRC open would not only retain some of the student population at CMSHS, but help draw new families to regional WA.
“When trying to attract people to country towns, especially with children, they come in and they look at the education facilities and the medical facilities,” Mr Seymour said.
“If they’re both good, they’re prepared to move into the region and run their businesses and find employment, so education and medical facilities are at the top of the list and when they’re not there people go elsewhere.”
Mr Seymour said the efforts of Save Moora College campaigners and support from the wider WA community had been pivotal in keeping the college open.
He singled out Ms Errington, who he described as a “tireless, dogged worker”.
“The workload that she was under and the amount of research she has been able to achieve has just been phenomenal,” Mr Seymour said.
“They’ve got the message out there loud and clear and it’s just been phenomenal to watch.
“If anything, it’s galvanised the community.”
Deputy Prime Minister and The Nationals leader Michael McCormack said the grass roots campaign to save the college had sent a resounding message across Australia that keeping the country residential facility was essential.
He said the Federal government understood regional Western Australians should have the same access to the basic educational opportunities their metropolitan counterparts enjoyed.
“The community outrage expressed at various events, on social media and in the general media demonstrated not only the value of the Moora education facility’s great value to regional residents and students, but also the need to protect these people by ensuring they can continue to have fair access to essential, basic services like education,” Mr McCormack said.
“The Federal Liberal and Nationals government is committed to backing regional Australians which is why we’ve agreed to provide $8.7 million in capital funding to the Moora Residential College to secure its future by building new residencies.
“Unlike others, we understand regional people living in a regional town like Moora, or any other non-metropolitan post code, such as those who will now have continued access to the Residential College, should be protected and not threatened by government actions and funding allocations.”
Liberal Durack MP Melissa Price backed Mr McCormack’s sentiments, and said keeping the college was of huge importance to those in her electorate.
Ms Price said she had worked closely with Mr McCormack and Liberal Senator for Western Australia, Mathius Cormann, to ensure Federal funding would allow the MRC to remain available for regional students.
“This is some of the best news for my electorate and I am very proud my support and lobbying for this outcome has been realised; parents and students can now enjoy the certainty of a bright future,” Ms Price said.
Premier Mark McGowan thanked the Federal government for its financial assistance and said the State would support the college through ongoing recurrent funding.
He said the State government had already thrown $60,000 behind the school this year to improve fire detection and warning systems for the safety of students and staff at the MRC.
“I understand this process has been difficult for the community, staff, parents and students,” Mr McGowan said.
“Our decision to close the boarding facility was an extremely tough decision, but it was made in the context of the dire financial situation we inherited.
“I would like to thank the Federal government and Senator Cormann, in particular, for their funding offer and welcome their interest in supporting WA.
“Together with the community, we now have an opportunity to make an upgraded facility in Moora work in the long-term and ensure the boarding facility is sustainable into the future.
“My government remains committed to delivering responsible financial management in the best interests of the whole State.”