Wadeye school seeks compensation over "discrimination"

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School in Wadeye Aboriginal community, south-west of Darwin, is seeking an apology and compensation for alleged discrimination that has caused it to miss out on millions of dollars in federal funding.

With the help of Melbourne law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler, the Catholic-run school is preparing an unprecedented complaint for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, The Age reports.

"All the children [Our Lady of Sacred Heart school] in Wadeye are treated as second-class citizens," says the school's deputy principal Ann Rebgetz.
"There is a world here and there's a very different world out there. The kids here are being denied the basic right to proper care and education."

The school will claim that for up to 30 years children in remote indigenous communities such as Wadeye have been discriminated against and denied tens of millions of federal government dollars.

The complaint, which lawyers expect to file this week, will seek an apology and compensation.

Citing the example of 12-year-old Bernadette Mullumbuk who was born without arms as a result of a rare condition called tar syndrome, school principal Tobias Ngambe says that Bernadette deserves "the very best, like all the other disabled children in Australia".

Everyone at the school is proud of Bernadette's achievements, even though she and 15 other disabled students do not receive the same specialised care as most other disabled children in Australia.

"She's adept - she's even taught herself to use a computer," says teacher Ann Henry.

"We keep asking and asking for these kids to receive the same care as others but nobody listens," Mr Nganbe said.

"I didn't want it to come to this, but it is time to let everyone know what is happening in Wadeye and other remote communities."

Mr Nganbe said there is nothing in the classrooms to help disabled students.

The complaint will claim the school receives more than $3 million a year less than it should.

Legal bid to give forgotten children a chance (The Age, 16/4/07)
School to fight rule that short-changes disabled pupils (Sydney Morning Herald, 16/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School, Wadeye
Wadeye (Dept of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs)
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Arnold Bloch Leibler - Lawyers and Advisers

16 Apr 2007

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