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BER – that other non-disaster

By Judy Crozier - posted Friday, 6 September 2013

Like the 'pink batts' or Home Insulation Program, Building the Education Revolution also worked well, but has been reported as a disaster.

Why was it reported that way? Well, I've muttered before about the msm never letting a fact get in the way of a good story. And there were tales of isolated brawls between the department involved and builders, or builders and schools.

To be expected – there will always, always be glitches in large infrastructure programs.


But let's get this straight: 97% of schools were happy with what they got. And that would be because they got what they asked for. Proposals for works came from the schools themselves.

And I imagine their local communities are pretty happy too, considering a requirement for the new building was that it be available to the broader community at no or little cost. This applies particularly to school libraries and multifunctional halls.

Maybe this where all those sneering references to 'school halls' came from. Search me.

Other facilities built under BER included classrooms, some refurbishment of outdoor play areas, new or refurbished language learning centres and science laboratories, all with specific guidelines for disability access.

In 2010, the BER Implementation Taskforce reported back to the then Minister, Chris Evans, that the program was largely successful, with only 3% of schools making complaints.

Tony Abbott, of course, had bellowed that it was all a "rort" – this and the Home Insulation Scheme.


The Taskforce did also report that costs in for these public schools' works were 25% higher than those for Catholic or Private schools. But the view of the Australian national Audit Office (ANAO) was that that was hardly a viable comparison. Standards in government schools are higher, and so building is more expensive.

So… what we have is a very well rolled-out program to upgrade school facilities, with a minute dissatisfaction rate and the application of high standards. Try and find the downside.

Indeed, in May 2010, Bernard Keane in Crikey wrote:

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About the Author

Judy Crozier began as a baby journalist with the Melbourne Times back in the 70s, and did some editing and writing for other small journals for a time. She's been a local government representative, a community worker, a singer and a proof reader. Now she writes fiction and some freelance non-fiction, and teaches creative writing in Melbourne.

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