Vulnerable lives are at risk

May 18, 2018

THE health and safety of Echuca Specialist School students — already abandoned by the Victorian government in its latest budget — were at risk on Wednesday when a pipe burst and the school had no water.

It would have shut the school if students weren’t already at the facility but because some have to travel long distances, they couldn’t be sent home.

Two students need to be fed through a tube, which requires extensive cleaning and water. Fortunately one didn’t attend and the other only had to be fed once.

‘‘What annoys me the most is that we are talking about their lives now,’’ Echuca Specialist School teacher’s aide Deb Colliver said.

‘‘We’re not talking about school programs.

‘‘We are talking about keeping students healthy enough to stay alive and that’s what is so frustrating.

‘‘To me because they’ve got a disability they are being affected more, it’s discrimination against them because their basic needs to come to school can’t be met.

‘‘It’s not fair on them. They have the right to come to school.’’

Vice president David O’Dea said the pipe bursting was not an isolated issue.

Raw sewage has also been leaking at the school, sometimes up through sinks where the feeding tubes are cleaned.

The rooms are filled with asbestos and if you have two appliances running at once (the microwave and the heater) teachers have come to expect the power to go out.

An old disposal unit used to burn dirty nappies inside the toilets also broke on Wednesday.

‘‘There’s been problems with plumbing and toilets consistently,’’ Mr O’Dea said.

‘‘It’s not unusual to see the principal in a pair of gumboots shovelling sewage.’’

President Scott Morrison said the school was not purpose built.

‘‘The systems were never designed to cope with this level of service,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve had toilets back up and overflow in the administration area.

‘‘It’s a massive health and safety situation.

‘‘These are second-hand portables that sit on a gravel carpark that don’t even belong to the local shire.

‘‘If we didn’t have the support from the community, who knows where we would be.’’

The concrete path from the front gate to the road was not laid until 2014.

‘‘And that was due to parents getting together and gaining donations and committing their own time to provide that,’’ Mr O’Dea said.

‘‘Before that we didn’t even have a path to the front gate.’’

The school has also had thousands of dollars of property stolen from it because there is no security.

‘‘Buses used to get broken into on a weekly basis,’’ Mr O’Dea said.

Parents say all these issues could have been addressed if the school received funding in the state budget to move into Twin Rivers. Since that didn’t happen it won’t be in the new facility until 2021 at the earliest.

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