Families of children with complex and profound disabilities in Latrobe Valley today are breathing a sigh of relief following their long campaign to gain funding for a new Latrobe Special Developmental School (Latrobe SDS).
The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath had on behalf of the parents and students steadfastly lobbied the Andrews Government to commit funding for a rebuild of Latrobe SDS on a standalone site for over five years.
Ms Bath said the Latrobe SDS project has long been identified as critical, with students, teachers and staff forced to endure appalling and seriously inadequate education facilities.
“Today’s announcement from the Minister for Education, James Merlino comes with much relief following a long and hard fought campaign,” said Ms Bath.
The fight to secure funding for the school has had many twists and turns.
After raising the schools antiquated condition in state parliament on numerous occasions, Ms Bath formally requested Minister Merlino to provide funding for a new Latrobe SDS during June 2017.
In March 2018, Ms Bath then tabled a petition with 3000 signatures on behalf of the school community, which also saw students and their families travel to state parliament to send a clear message to the government.
During the 2018 state election, the Nationals and Liberals committed funding to rebuild the school on a standalone site in October.
Ms Bath said while it is disappointing it has taken the Andrews Government nearly two years to match the Nationals and Liberals commitment, she is delighted funding has been provided at last to deliver Latrobe SDS with the facilities they need and deserve.
“All Victorian students regardless of ability deserve a fit for purpose, individualised, safe and supported learning environment,” said Ms Bath.
“Along with this announcement, it’s imperative Minister Merlino also guarantees Latrobe SDS will retain its ‘special developmental’ status, not be co-located with a mainstream school and remain a standalone campus.
“The Andrews Government must release a comprehensive timeline for the construction of the new Latrobe SDS, this funding announcement will not alone build this school and families have waited long enough.
“I will continue to watch over this project with a keen eye and advocate for the best possible educational outcomes for Latrobe SDS students and their families,” Ms Bath said.