By Lauren Kathage MP

22 June 2023

Lauren KATHAGE (Yan Yean) (16:48): I am so glad that the member for Kew has raised the topic of schools. Just yesterday the principal of Doreen Primary School Glenn Simondson was here to meet with the minister and share some of the knowledge he has gained in his decades as a principal and teacher in our local state schools. While he was here he shared with us the story of Doreen Primary School and how he as principal fought to keep the school open during the era of the Kennett cuts. I am so glad that that school managed to stay open during that era.

Other schools in my electorate were not so lucky. I think of Kalkallo Primary School, which was cut by Kennett. But never fear, because the member for Kalkallo is gladly welcoming and pushing along all of our brilliant new schools in that area. We are looking forward to the high school, which is on track. We have got a specialist school coming. We have had Gilgai Plains Primary School, and other primary schools are coming, so we are more than making up for the cuts of the Kennett era. When the member for Kew says that Labor spend too much money on schools, that we show too much support for the schools in our area, I say, ‘Long may it continue.’

Sam Groth: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, I think the member for Yan Yean is misquoting the member for Kew.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order. There is no point of order. It is a matter of debate. The member for Yan Yean to continue unimpeded, please.

Lauren Kathage: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. The principal of Doreen Primary School was here to talk about the upgrade happening at the school which was funded in last year’s budget, and that was advocated for by the former member for Yan Yean, who was a great advocate for our area. I recall after that funding was received she was fond of saying, truthfully, that in Mernda and Doreen every school was either built or upgraded by a Labor government – every school in Mernda and Doreen. I am so pleased to be able to say that this budget continues that history.

In this budget we have funding in Doreen for Hazel Glen College, for an upgrade of their sports facilities. What is great about state schools is that in many cases their facilities are available for community use as well. So when we invest in our local state schools we are also investing for our community, and that is the case with this $800,000 sports upgrade at Hazel Glen College. This will provide new sports courts not just for the students but for the community, and we know that the City of Whittlesea has a deficit of netball courts, which our government is working hard to address.

Another way that we are addressing that deficit of courts in the Mernda–Doreen area is through funding the next stage of the Mernda regional aquatic and sports centre. For those in the room that might sound like just another project, but I can tell you that this project has been on the front page of our local paper for years and years as the council worked through their issues to get this project off the ground. We were so pleased when they finished their business case last July, and Labor was quick to commit funding of $20 million in the campaign to get that project moving. When complete, this project will include six indoor courts, including competition-level courts, eight outdoor courts and a full aquatic centre. I checked with council last week to make sure of something that is important to a lot of families – that there is a play or splash area included inside, as they have in Craigieburn – and I was so pleased that we will have that fabulous facility for our families.

Continuing then on the theme of schools, my first election commitment, which I am so pleased to see delivered in this budget, was for an upgrade for Whittlesea Secondary College. We saw a few weeks ago the woodwork, or the manual arts – I am not sure of the correct term these days – teacher receiving an award for 40 years service. This college has been part of the community for such a long time, and the history of the college is part of the history of many of the families in that community. In fact I believe I met the mother of that teacher when I was out and about during the campaign.

The upgrade of Whittlesea Secondary College will see their facilities improved, and let me tell you, they deserve it. They are a fantastic group of teachers, students and staff. The principal Kathy Mourkakos speaks passionately and advocates strongly for her school, and so she should. Referring to what I was saying earlier about Mernda and Doreen, something she said to me was, ‘I see the schools in Mernda and Doreen, and I’d like our college to be at that same level of world-class facilities.’ So I am really proud that with this budget we are making that possible. I pay tribute to the wonderful student leadership team there, who I have had the privilege of meeting on a few occasions, particularly a young student, Sophie, who has a keen interest in politics – and perhaps one day we will see her in this chamber.

Another school which is being supported through this budget is Wandong Primary School, and this school is a cracker. It definitely performs well above its weight in terms of the focus on literacy for its students, the fantastic teachers and the principal Kelly Morrow. This upgrade will see improved facilities for not just the students but the teachers as well, with new administrative and meeting rooms for the teachers, because we know that teachers do a fabulous job, and teachers deserve to have the best facilities. I am really glad that we will be able to provide additional and better facilities for the teachers at that wonderful school.

But when you are not at school you need to have some fun. There needs to be not just the three Rs – reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic – but opportunities for families and children to enjoy some recreation. So I am really pleased that this budget is delivering on our commitment of $500,000 towards a regional play space in Doreen. I think we have seen that the member for Mill Park has delivered a similar facility for her community. For us a little bit further north this was something that we needed. Families have been travelling to Mill Park or across to Wallan, which was another project which was supported under the Growing Suburbs Fund by this government, so I am so pleased that by working together with the federal government, a very cooperative federal government, and the local council we are going to be able to deliver a play space for the community which will include a splash park and which will be for all abilities. Every child deserves the opportunity to play, and in this budget we are making sure that children in Doreen have that opportunity. I recall on the hustings meeting a mother who had told me about the Mill Park all-abilities playground and how she travelled with her young son, who was the same age as my daughter, down to use that playground regularly. I am so pleased to know that for her and her son there will be a local option for recreation in the near future.

A problem that families have faced repeatedly in our area – it might seem like a wee problem – is that we do not have a toilet at the Laurimar shops.

Members interjecting.

Lauren Kathage: Thank you. I am here all night. I would meet many families or people who were visiting the area when I was on mobile stalls at the shops. They would ask me where the toilet was, and I would have to tell them that unfortunately the shops had not provided a toilet that was open for families to use. Little kids were doing bush wees down at the park because there were no other options. It may seem like a small thing, but it is actually going to make a huge difference to people. I did speak to a father, who has been speaking with me about this, about his child who has bladder issues and who he has not felt confident and comfortable to take to the shops, because there was nowhere to go to the toilet. I am so glad that we are delivering what matters. We are delivering things that others may not deign to think about or think are important, but we know what is important for people in our electorates, and so I am so glad to deliver funding for a bathroom in Laurimar.

From the very small to the very big: I would like to speak about the delivery of the ramps onto the Hume from our community in Wallan. This project is absolutely huge for our community. I drive on Watson Street every day, and every day families on the way to school and people on the way to work are lining up to get onto the Hume. They have to drive right through the centre of Wallan to do that, so the delivery of these ramps means that the traffic will be taken straight out of Wallan and families will not have to queue up to get to where they need to be. It has always been dispiriting driving past the line of traffic waiting to get to where it needs to be. This project is already under the community engagement process, and community members are giving their input into how they want the ramps and associated amenities to be. This is going to change things completely for our community. I think if you did a tally of all of the front pages of the –

The SPEAKER: Order. The time set down for consideration of items on the government business program has arrived, and I am required to interrupt business. The member will have the call next time the motion is before the house.