‘You failed. Goodbye’: Secret expulsions pushing thousands out of state schools

A total of 278 students were formally expelled from Victorian schools last year – but many more were informally expelled. Photo: Jason SouthVictorian schools are secretly expelling possibly thousands of students every year, a scathing watchdog’s report has found.
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Jeri Packham is among them, and said her state school asked her to leave in Year 11 after she failed a unit of VCE English. She was battling depression and anxiety at the time.

“They didn’t offer me the opportunity to repeat. It was just, ‘you failed, goodbye’.”

For the first time, the Victorian Ombudsman has shone a light on informal expulsions, revealing that as many as 6800 students are pushed out of Victorian state schools every year.

“We simply do not know where they end up,” the report said.

A total of 278 students – mostly boys in Years 8 to 10 – were formally expelled from Victorian state schools last year.

Principals must now seek Education Department approval before they expel students who are eight or under after the watchdog raised concerns about 43 primary school students being expelled in 2016.

Some of these students were just five orsix-years-old.

“It is difficult to conceive of circumstances where the behaviour of children as young as five or six could be of such magnitude that expulsion is the only option available,” Ombudsman Deborah Glass found.

Almost one third of expelled students had a disability or a mental illness, and Aboriginal children and those in state care were over-represented.

But the actual number of students ordered to leave is much higher.

“Somewhere between hundreds and thousands of children each year disengage from formal education at least in part as a result of pressure from schools,” the report said.

Ms Glass said principals were failing to ensure that expelled students found another school.

In some instances, students were disengaged from school for up to 12 months following their expulsion.

“We have parents that have had to give up work because of the experience of not being able to find their child a new school,” she told Fairfax Media.

“Principals are simply washing their hands of this.”

The report also highlighted the inconsistent approaches to expulsion between schools. Students were ordered to leave for the following reasons:

Repeatedly bringing a phone to class, not completing work and using aggressive language

Not wearing the correct uniform, showing up to school late and using offensive language in class

“Trashing the classroom”. The seven-year-old had autism and ADHD.

Hitting an assistant principal. The primary school was aware of significant upheaval in the child’s life including Department of Health and Human Services’ involvement after her mother tried to relinquish care to her grandmother.

Admitting to smoking marijuana on school grounds. The secondary school student had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The Ombudsman decided to investigate following a 25 per cent increase in expulsions between 2014 and 2015.

The state government responded by announcing $5.9 million program to engage students with challenging behaviour and complex needs.

Education Minister James Merlino

“We’re acting decisively to implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations, and support principals, teachers and students.”

Schools have created “placement committees” to share expelled students, according to a submission by the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals.

They “take their turn” to accept expelled students, including those from nearby private schools.

Australian Principals Federation president Julie Podbury said principals went out of their way to avoid expelling students.

“Principals bust themselves to try and find a solution. We find expulsion unpalatable,” she said.

Jeri Packham, seen here with her dog Scruffy, says she was asked to leave her school after she failed a unit of VCE English. Photo: Eddie Jim

Jeri, who is now 17, has been out of a school for a year.

“It’s discouraging being in a room of adults who say ‘you’ve failed and there’s nothing we can do to help you’,” she said.

The principal of Jeri’s former school denies the claims and said teachers tried to help her complete the VCE.

But Jeri is optimistic about her future and has enrolled in a nursing course at TAFE, which will start next year.

“It’s going to be a bit of a change going back to study, but it should be good.”

Environmental watchdog called a ‘toothless tiger’

Fle photoThe state’s environmental watchdog has been labelled a toothless tiger by environmentalists after it was revealed a mining giant breached its licence conditions on more than 50 occasion was only fined seven times.
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The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) defended itself against the claim, stating it had some of the toughest regulations for mines in Australia and took its regulation of mines “very seriously”.

A spokesperson said that fines weren’t the only tool the EPA has to get companies to toe the line – it also used audits, adding or changing licence conditions, statutory directions and prosecution powers.

Environmental Justice Australia analysed the annual reports for Whitehaven Coal’s four Namoi Valley mines from 2010 to 2016 and found a total of 54 breaches had been reported – but the EPA only fined the company seven times for a total of $24,000.

Lock the Gate national coordinator Phil Laird said rather than acting like a watchdog, the EPA was “acting as a consultant, managing the issue and minimising the fallout”.

“I don’t think anyone looking at it on its face value would think that it’s doing an adequate job,” he said.

“The EPA says it takes mining regulations ‘very seriously’ – we don’t want them to take it seriously, we want them to resolve it.

Lock the Gate national coordinator Phil Laird

An EPA spokesperson said regulatory decisions were governed by its compliance policy, to ensure its “compliance actions are consistent, fair and credible”.

“The EPA takes compliance and enforcement action… as appropriate for each non-compliance,” the spokesperson said.

“For example to address non-compliances regarding the Maules Creek coal mine, the EPA has issued penalty notices, required an independent mandatory environmental audit to assess compliance with noise limits and issued pollution reduction programs.

“The EPA … also recently commissioned Katestone Environmental to examine dust control measures at the mine.”

A Whitehaven spokesman said the company took its environmental obligations “very seriously”.

“We have a great deal of confidence in our record of environmental management and the trend of strong compliance we believe the company has demonstrated over many years,” he said.

“Where there have been occasional instances of non-compliance, we have worked closely with all stakeholders, including the state government, to ensure any issues are quickly addressed and remedied.”

Northern Daily Leader

Are you thinking about Christmas? Mike is

Mike Welch’s memories of Christmas as a child prompted him to open the new emporium. Photo: Karleen MinneyYou might think it’s all car dealers and furniture shops outFyshwick waybut head to the northernend of KemblaStreet and you’ll happily discover- as I did – a littleroom packed full of Christmas magic.
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From giant bon-bons (featuringtiny hip flasks inside as ‘the gift’) to Waterford crystal ornaments and vintage train sets, the new Christmas Emporium at Hang Ups Picture Framing is a little piece ofholiday enchantment smack bang in the middle ofindustrial Fyshwick.

But you won’t find ‘Stop Here Santa’ signs or fairy lights here – the store is packed wall-to-wall with collectible glass ornaments from locations like Rome and Frankfurt. Think the Faberge egg, but with a tiny sculpted Christmas village inside.

Mike Welch, owner of the new Christmas Emporium in Fyshwick, with a Kurt Adler snow globe. Photo: Karleen Minney

Hang Ups Picture Framing Director Mike Welch openedtheChristmas Emporiumlast month and saidcustomers were alreadywandering in and spending up to an hour browsing rare ornaments from across the globe.

Hesaid while he had always enjoyed Christmas, it had only recently hit home just how special a time it was for a young boy growing up in country NSW in the early 1960s.

“I’m an only child and I went to boarding school from a very early age because my mother was quite sick,” he said.

“So the only time I had with mum and dad was Christmastime.

“We lived in Coonabarabran – we would finishthe harvest and dad and I would head up to thecypresspine plantation at the top of the property and cut a Christmastree.

“We’d stick it in a bucket of water, chuck a few bits of tinsel around the bottom and decorate it with the Christmasdecorations we had. Mum was in charge ofthe drinks – dad would have a tea and Iwould have a cordial.

“I don’t have many special memories from my childhood but Christmas is definitely one of them.”

Kurt Adler, De Carlini andOld World Christmasare among the brands you’ll find at the new Christmas Emporium. While a number of Christmas shops “pop up” in Fyshwick closer to December, Mike said hisfocus was on beautifulcollectibles thatgrandparents couldhand down to grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He attended Christmas and toy fairs in Las Vegas, Frankfurt, Birmingham and New York earlier this year to source unique products for the Canberra market.

“I think ultimately everyonestill craves the child within,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, an 80 or a 90-year-old still has a child within them and that’s what part of the magic of Christmas is.”

The Canberra Times

Joyce citizen shock leaves government hanging by a thread

Malcolm Turnbull’s government is hanging by a thread after dramatic revelations thatDeputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce isa dual citizen, potentially ruling him ineligible to remain inParliament and putting the Coalition’s slim majority at risk.
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Despite his bombshell announcement,Mr Joyce is refusing to step down from cabinet or abstain from votes in the lower house – where the Coalition has a one seat majority – claiming he is confidentthe High Court will clear him to stay on.

However the Nationals leader is also taking urgent steps to renounce his New Zealand citizenship, paving the way for him to run again in case the court rules him ineligible and orders a byelection in his NSW seat of New England.

Mr Turnbull is also confident the court will clear his deputy, declaring:”TheDeputy Prime Ministeris qualified to sit in this house and theHigh Courtwill so hold.”

But constitutional experts do not share the Prime Minister’s confidenceand Labor is questioning the government’s entire legitimacy. The spotlight has also once again turned back on other foreign-born MP – or MPs with parents born overseas – including the Liberal lower house MPJulia Banks, who has Greek heritage.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on the frontbench during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

READ MORE: What Barnaby Joyce said when other pollies got caught out on citizenship

In shock developments on Monday morning,Mr Joyce confessed to the dual citizenship concerns and referred himself to the High Court precisely one week after Fairfax Media first raised questions with his office and New Zealand authorities.

Mr Joyce’s office refused to provide evidence of sole Australian citizenship and repeatedly refused to answer questions over recent days, before seeking advice from the government’s Solicitor-General.Fairfax Media sent a final request for comment an hour before Mr Joyce’s lower house bombshell.

Questions over dual citizenship -which is prohibited for members of parliament under section 44 of the constitution -have already forced two Greens senators to quit,Nationals senator MattCanavanto resign as resources minister, and landed One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts in the High Court.

Despite being born in Australia, Mr Joyce inherited his citizenship from his father – James Joyce – who was born in Dunedin in 1924. Under NZ law, anyone born to a NZ father between 1949and 1978 is considered a “citizen by descent”.

Mr Joyce said he was “shocked” to learn he was a dual Australian-New Zealand citizen.

“I was born in Tamworth, just as my mother and my great-grandma was born there 100 years earlier,” he said.

“Neither I, nor my parents have ever had any reason to believe I may be a citizen of another country. I was born in Australia in 1967 to an Australian mother and think I am fifth generation. My father was born in New Zealand and came to Australia in 1947 as a British subject. In fact we were all British subjects at that time.”

The government’s advice is that he is unlikely to be disqualified: “However, to provide clarification to this very important area of the law, for this and future parliaments, I have asked the government to refer the matter,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during question time on Monday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Soon after New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English personally confirmed Mr Joyce’s status.

“Unwittingly or not, he’s a New Zealand citizen,”he said. “These things are almost always accidental. No one sets out to confuse the public with their citizenship.”

Mr Joyce, who never registered his citizenship with New Zealand authorities, is expected to argue he had no way of knowing he was a dual citizen, having previously inquired to see if he was registered with NZauthorities and being told he wasn’t.

But University of Sydney constitutional expertAnne Twomey said Mr Turnbull’s declaration that the court “will” clear Mr Joyce was “not terribly helpful”.

“You won’t find any constitutional lawyers expressing that kind of confidence,” she said. Ms Twomey also discovered she had New Zealand citizenship while researching the laws on Fairfax’s behalf.

Senator Canavanstepped down from the ministry and has abstained from votes since realising he was an Italian citizen last month. The government claims the Mr Joyce’s circumstances are different.

The worst-case scenario for the government now would be a byelection, with its popularity at such a low ebb.

Former independent MP Tony Windsor, who held the seat for more than a decade and challenged Mr Joyce at last year’s election, wouldn’t rule out another attempt if the citizenship fiasco triggered a byelection.

One-time New England MP Tony Windsor.

“It’s not front of mind but you never rule anything out in life,” Mr Windsor, a long-time foe of the Nationals leader, told Fairfax Media. “If he’s ruled out, it’s a whole new ball game.”

Labor openly questioned the government’s legitimacy, withfrontbencher Tony Burkesaying the government was clinging to power.

“This is a government without legitimacy,”he said. “We’ve never had a government before, ever since Federation, that has had to go to the High Court because they just weren’t sure if they had a majority.”

Mr Turnbull wrote to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Monday, offering him the “opportunity” to refer any Labor MPs who may potentially fall foul of the same constitutional section.

“It is manifestly in the national interest that the High Court have the opportunity to clarify the limits on the operation of section 44 of the constitution,” Mr Turnbull wrote.

But Labor declined the offer, with the ALP’s National Secretary Noah Carroll issuing a statement saying it has an “extensive and exhaustive process for ensuring that every candidate satisfies all constitutional requirements”.

“One part of this process is that candidates are required to declare the citizenship status of their parents and grandparents. Where there are any issues with respect to dual citizenship – potential or otherwise – candidates are required to take all reasonable steps to renounce and satisfy the requirements of section 44.

“We are confident every member of the Labor caucus has been properly elected.”

Collision of church and state was inevitable

SOLICITOR Vivian Waller summed up the case for legislation requiring clergy to report all child sex allegations to authorities –even allegations raised during confession.
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“I think it’s about time the Catholic Church was dragged out of the dark ages,”she said on Monday after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its Criminal Justicereport.

It might have had 85 recommendations to address what commission chair Justice Peter McClellan identified as the almost “insurmountable barriers” currently facing child sex victims when they negotiate the criminal justice system.

Read more: ‘Shine the Light’ –the Newcastle Herald’s complete coverage of the Royal Commission

But all focus was on just one recommendationthat directly challenges the Catholic Church –the seal of the confessional.

Vivian Waller put the perspective of survivors and their advocates: “We can no longer think about sexual offending against children as some kind of forgivable sin.”

In the report the commission acknowledged “the right of a person to freely practise their religion in accordance with their beliefs”.

But it concluded that “the right to practise one’s religious beliefs must accommodate civil society’s obligation to provide for the safety of all and, in particular, children’s safety from sexual abuse”.

There is no doubt the Catholic Church still has problems with the concepts of crime, sin and forgiveness. An abuse victim who resigned from Pope Francis’ child protection commission accused him of being misguided and ineffective on child sexual abuse after cases where he had shown “mercy” for convicted church offenders, and refused to defrock them.

“I feel (he) does not appreciate how his actions of clemency undermine everything else he does in this area,” abuse victim MarieCollins said.

In the final public hearing into the church in February, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge confirmed the Pope declined his request to remove eight convicted priest child sex offenders from the priesthood, and dismissed just one –Francis Edward Derriman –whose crimes against childrenwere revealed during a royal commission public hearing in 2013. Pope Francis assigned others to “a life of prayer and penance”.

The royal commission was always going to be a test of church and state. The final report is not due untilDecember.

Issue: 38,571.