Qld school cuts boarders

Courtesy: Townsville Bulletin

A north Queensland indigenous college is closing its secondary school and will no longer take boarders following child abuse investigations.

Uniting Church Reverend David Baker says the decision was based on the “welfare and best interests of our students” at Shalom Christian College.

“We understand that this decision will be distressing for students, parents, teachers and community leaders,” the reverend said in a statement.

“We emphasise that we have a responsibility to ensure the school is a safe, supportive and productive learning environment.”

The school has been criticised for its handling of the announcement with an Independent Education Union spokesman saying it was “disappointing and disrespectful” staff found out through the media.

“For long-standing staff to hear they no longer have a job just before Christmas is bad enough, but for their employer to not even tell them, and for them to hear the news from a third party, is particularly shameful,” Independent Education Union’s Brad Hayes said.

Education Minister Kate Jones has vowed to do “everything possible” to support displaced students and staff following the decision.

“We believe we’ll be able to accommodate all students at local state schools and we’ll work with families to offer this solution,” she said.

The Townsville school was part of the Royal Commission into child sex abuse regarding the gang rape of a 14-year-old girl on campus in 2006.

Speaking to the commission last year, the child’s parents said the college had not looked after their daughter’s interests medically, psychologically or legally.

Former Shalom principal Christopher Shirley was questioned over his handling of the incident and told the commission he guessed there “would probably” be “five (sex assault allegations) a term, 20 a year”.