Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic College (OLSH) Alice Springs, welcomed the Federal Minister for Education, Jason Clare MP, and National Catholic education executive director Jacinta Collins this week as part of a high-level education delegation looking at the unique challenges facing central Australian schools.

Jacinta joined the Minister, the chair of the government’s expert panel advising the government on the National School Reform Agreement, Dr Lisa O’Brien AM; Department of Education deputy secretary, Schools, Meg Brighton, and Catholic Education Northern Territory director, Paul Greaves.

“My thanks to OLHS principal Paul Melloy, staff and students for the informative and engaging visit,” Jacinta said.

“It was evident OLHS fosters a strong community, a collaborative learning environment and strives to make education accessible and impactful for all.”

Paul Greaves said he was privileged to participate in the meeting that Minister Clare had with a group of Aboriginal students from OLSH. 

“The school has an enviable record in supporting attendance and engagement of Aboriginal students, and in getting Aboriginal students to complete Year 12 and gain a Northern Territory Certificate of Education and Training. It was particularly impressive to hear the students share with the Minister their reflections on why this is the case.” 

Catholic education has three schools in the Alice Springs district, OLSH, St Joseph’s Catholic Flexible Learning Centre and Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School.

During the Alice Springs visit, Northern Territory Catholic school principals and education office leaders took part in round table discussions led by Minister Clare addressing how the On Country Learning funding could be used by schools.

Jacinta said the visit to Alice Springs was an invaluable opportunity for the Minister to visit one of the local Catholic schools, and also to speak with Catholic education leaders to gain a better awareness of the issues facing remote schools.

“It is vital that our governments and those creating policy can engage directly with our school communities to deepen their understanding of their needs and the impact of programs and funding,” Jacinta said.

The On Country Learning measure, announced in the 2023-24 Federal Budget, commits $40 million over 2023-24 and 2024-25 to support improved attendance and engagement at the 46 schools in the Central Australia region that are currently operating below the 100 per cent Schooling Resource Standard (SRS).

“This additional funding will provide a boost to our schools in Central Australia which have significant challenges around disadvantage, attendance, wellbeing and other factors that impact greatly on student learning outcomes, particularly for our First Nations students,” Jacinta said.

“It will support these schools operating below the Schooling Resource Standard and we look forward to the future bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and Northern Territory to bring our schools up to 100 per cent of the SRS over the long term.”

Minister Clare said schools had been advised what proportion of the funds would be allocated to them, with a number of potential funding concepts discussed, including forming a centralised team of occupational therapists and psychologists to visit remote schools and the employment of more indigenous educators.

“I hope that principals’ look at this funding and think about people in the local community, particularly indigenous Australians, who could be employed to provide the extra services and support students need,” Minister Clare told the Northern Territory News.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic College Alice Springs students with principal Paul Melloy, National Catholic education executive director Jacinta Collins and Catholic Education Northern Territory director, Paul Greaves.