Catholic school battles developer in Melbourne's west

A Catholic primary school in Caroline Springs on the outskirts of Melbourne has gathered 700 signatures in a campaign to stop a major property developer from selling a block of land to a private college.

Star News Group reports that Christ the Priest Primary School opposes the sale of land to Independent Colleges of Australia (ICA), a non-profit company established by childcare giant ABC Learning. The land had earlier been earmarked for the school.

Local Melton Shire councillors will soon decide whether they will express their disappointment at the decision by Delfin, owned by one of the world's leading property developer Lend Lease.

If the motion is carried, the council is expected to write to Delfin expressing its formal disappointment, Sugar Gum Ward councillor Justin Mammarella said.

"The reality is that Delfin must come to council for approval for any works within the area and I think our position should be influential because we represent the residents," Cr Mammarella said.

Christ the Priest School's committee spokesperson Pat Gurrie said he was positive councillors would support the motion.

Brendan O'Connor, Federal Member for Gorton, had earlier raised concerns in parliament about the links between ICA and Delfin.

"ICA is a Brisbane based company which, up until recently, was a subsidiary of ABC Learning Pty Ltd. ICA has no history of providing education to primary school children in Australia," he told parliament.

"Does the fact that ABC Learning and Delfin Lend Lease share a director have any bearing on Delfin's decision to sell the land to ICA? Does the fact that ABC Learning and ICA share two directors, one of whom is the wife of the ABC Learning chief executive officer, mean that there are still ties that bind those two companies?

"In the end all that should matter is that the families in Caroline Springs get to choose where they want to send their children. I consider Caroline Springs College - a very good state school - Mowbray College and Christ the Priest Catholic Primary School to be three great schools that should be first afforded the opportunity to expand in order to cater for the rapid growth in Caroline Springs. They should be preferred over other schools that have no relationship with the community," Mr O'Connor said.

Meanwhile, The Courier Mail has reported that Queensland's oldest Marist Brothers Catholic boy's school is to close at the end of 2008 due to declining enrolments.

The Catholic Education Council announced the decision to close Rosalie in Brisbane's inner-west yesterday despite a campaign involving federal, state and local politicians to save the 77-year-old school from closure.

Catholic Education Council chairwoman Sister Mary McDonald said it was unfair to run the school with enrolments just above 200 children.

"At current levels the quality of education was at risk because of curriculum issues," she said.

Councillors to decide (Star News 12/7/06)
Marist school to close (Courier Mail 12/7/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Christ the Priest Primary School, Caroline Springs
ABC Learning
O'Connor questions Delfin - ICA link (Brendan O'Connor, Federal Member for Gorton)
Delfin Caroline Springs | Delfin Land Lease
For-profit school sparks outrage (The Age 4/12/04)

School still in dark (Star News, 9/5/06)
School anger (Star News 2/5/06)

13 Jul 2006