Ms JODI McKAY (Strathfield) (20:22 :31): Tonight I bring to the attention of the House an issue that is important to the community of Homebush West and that goes to the heart of the way the Government is mismanaging education in this State. I will tell the House about Homebush West Public School. It is a beautiful school with extraordinary students who love going to school and learning. More than 25 different languages are spoken at Homebush West Public School and the school community reflects the people from my community whom I serve in this Parliament. Homebush West is a growing school. Currently 520 students attend the school, but that number is forecast to grow to more than 900. It is a situation exacerbated by the Government's plans to redevelop land along and near Parramatta Road.
Just today the Government released its outcomes document on Parramatta Road. We also discovered recently that Sydney Markets is considering its future at Homebush West. If a decision were made to relocate the markets then obviously the site would be appealing to developers and as a result more people would live in the Homebush West area. In the lead-up to the March 2011 State election, the Premier committed $20 million to build 26 new classrooms at Homebush West Public School. This was a great announcement and it was certainly welcomed by the Homebush West school community. At the time it was well known that the Government had been negotiating for the past four years with St Anne's Anglican Church to buy land near the school. Fortuitously, the land was surplus to church needs. It is rare that land is available near growing schools.
The Homebush West parents and citizens association welcomed the negotiations, believing the Government was committed to achieving the best possible outcome for the community. However, just before Christmas the Department of Education stopped negotiating with the church to buy the land and instead decided that the 26 new classrooms would be built on the current site and a rooftop playground would compensate for the loss of playground. It is worth noting that many of the students who attend Homebush West Public School live in apartments; they deserve green space not the roof of a building to play. One reason that has been given for the Government abandoning its plans is Strathfield council's refusal to close Exeter Road, which was detailed in a letter from the Minister dated 7 March this year. That is simply not true, because in a letter dated 23 September 2015 the council indicates clearly that it will commence the statutory process associated with the closure of part of Exeter Road. Misinformation and contradictory advice have been provided by the department and the Minister throughout this process.
The decision to walk away from buying this land is short sighted and reeks of mismanagement. The decision has been condemned by the Homebush West community and it has been used widely as an example of the failure of this Government to futureproof our schools, particularly in the inner west. I have implored the Minister to change his mind, but he remains unconcerned about the issue. While he has met briefly with representatives of the parents and citizens association and has organised for them to meet again with staff within the agency, the situation has not changed. It is also appalling that the Government has given the parents and citizens association an ultimatum that if it wants the Government to purchase the land then it will remove classrooms. Since when did public education become a bargaining chip.
I congratulate the Homebush West community, and in particular the parents and citizens association, which refuses to accept the short-sightedness of the Government's decision. These are parents who believe in public education. In a few weeks the land owned by the Anglican Church will be advertised on the open market and is likely to be bought by a developer keen to add even more high-rise development to Homebush West. We have been given an opportunity to futureproof this school and I again implore the Minister to do so. On Friday I will meet once again with parents and teachers, accompanied by the shadow Minister for Education, the member for Lakemba. The parents and citizens association will also seek to secure Federal Government support. It has met with the member for Reid, who has indicated that he has met with the Minister; however, as expected, to date there has been no progress.
I also draw to the attention of the House the impact of this process on St Anne's Anglican Church, which, in good faith, let go of its tenants believing the Government would buy the land. The church has lost more than $50,000 in revenue. At Homebush West Public School the joy of learning is palpable. One sees it in the way the students approach their classes, the pride they take in their school and the manner in which they celebrate their multicultural school community. The teachers and parents at Homebush West deserve so much better than this Government is giving them.