The Federal Government’s Northern Territory Indigenous hostels program is in tatters with two out of three hostels three years overdue and cost overruns, Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister Senator Nigel Scullion said.
“In 2008 the Rudd Government announced it would build school hostels with a total of 152 beds at the remote communities of Wadeye, Garrthalala and Yuendemu with $28.9 m allocated for capital and running costs, to be operating by 2010. Wadeye, opened last year at a cost of $16m, it is only half full. The two other locations appear to have been dropped with no indication of alternatives,” Senator Scullion said.
“Julia Gillard’s fingerprints are all over this – she was the Education Minister when she approved the expenditure for a plan she cooked up with her mate Warren Snowdon. Five years on there is little to show but more Labor failure.
“Now the whole project has fallen apart. I think their original plan was flawed as the hostels need to be placed near well-functioning schools. The Government ignored their own feasibility study which said that hostels at Garrthalala and Yuendemu were not appropriate but they went ahead anyway and in the end reluctantly abandoned these sites.
“I was told at Senate Estimates the 40-bed Wadeye hostel would have 35 students enrolled with 34 of these from Wadeye itself – not from the bush as was the intention of the boarding school. It is a hostel for kids who live 100 metres down the road. This wouldn’t happen in any other Australian town – it is a bizarre experiment.
“Then I find out today there are not 35 students – there are only 21 staying at the hostel – it is only half full.
“Education Department officials told me that staff at the Wadeye hostel only started recruiting students at the beginning of this term as they were on holidays showing how badly Labor has bungled this program.
“The Gillard Government has already spent $650,000 on the proposed Garrthalala school hostel on survey fees and feasibility studies before a brick has even been laid. There is no school at Garrthalala and no plans to build one. Obviously it won’t go ahead.
“The Gillard Government has decided to can the boarding school planned for Yuendumu and possibly build at Tennant Creek but it won’t be 40 beds as originally proposed at Yuendumu. When and where the third hostel will be built is anyone’s guess in this shambolic Labor program.
“The funding won’t achieve the promised 152 beds. They failed to factor in staff housing costs in original calculations which have led to further cost blow outs. I hate to see waste anywhere but it distresses me to see it in remote Aboriginal communities where needs are so great,” Senator Scullion said.
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NT hostels release.pdf