21 Jun 2012

Adjournment debate – Dorset Primary School Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden

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Mr SYMON (Deakin) (21st June 2012 16:55): As many in this place would know, I always like to finish off the parliamentary week with a good news story at the last adjournment spot, and I bring yet another one today. Today I talk about one of my local schools. Just for once, it is not about another BER project that has gone so fantastically well in the electorate. This one is about a Stephanie Alexander kitchen garden. Some schools have had these for quite a while. In Victoria it has been a state program, and it is now a federal program as well. That is a great thing.

Dorset Primary School, in Croydon, in the electorate of Deakin, received $60,000 to put in a Stephanie Alexander kitchen garden. Dorset is a school that I have had a lot to do with over the years. It has grown in size every year, with more and more students. Since it has had its new works done under the BER program it is looking a whole lot better, but the garden looks better now too. Dorset has always had an ad hoc sort of a garden program. It is one of those schools where, when I go in the front gate, I usually find a chook walking around the place, and I occasionally trip over them—they are pretty friendly. It is that type of school. Now that it has the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program, I am sure it will become even more that type of school.

We were fortunate on the day to have the lady herself, Stephanie Alexander, come out with the Minister for Health, the Hon. Tanya Plibersek, to announce that there is another three years of funding for this program from the Gillard government. I think that is a great thing, because many schools that get kitchen gardens installed ask me: ‘What do we do when the funding for our program ceases? How do we keep the kitchen side of it going?’

I got to look at the new garden that had been installed, and we had a big school assembly there. Principal John Jacobs, who I often see, was there, and we also had the CEO of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, Ange Barry, there. It was a great result and good to see. The kitchen was still being finished when I was there. That was back on 16 May, and it was almost ready.

Some children at primary schools do not get the opportunity to see where food actually comes from. Although it might seem very simple to some of us, seeing how food is produced and prepared and where it comes from to get to your plate is a great thing. Other schools in my electorate have had Stephanie Alexander kitchen gardens installed over the years. Nunawading Primary School had one, I remember, as far back as 2007, and Burwood Heights Primary School also had one.

On the day, it was a great announcement at a great school. The other thing we had happening at the school on the day was a program run by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Education Office. That is also a very good program. It is fairly rare; the PEO do not travel that much, but they do get out and they bring parliament to our schools. Locally I have done that program twice now, over the years. So, on the same day that we had the opening of the kitchen garden, we also had a mock parliament, just like we do in this place upstairs for the school groups. The PEO does this on occasions for schools whose students do not get the opportunity to come and see what we do in Canberra. I got to address the students there and to see them practice their craft. I think there are a few candidates for a position up here in years to come. They did rather well. There were probably not as many arguments as we get in this place sometimes—they were fairly well behaved and fairly well on the point. If I remember rightly, they debated a bill about banning school homework. Believe it or not, I seem to remember that they voted it down. So they wanted to learn more, and that is a great thing.

It was not only Dorset that had a ‘Parliament Alive’ presentation that day. We also had the PEO come out to Livingstone Primary School and Weeden Heights Primary School in the electorate, and we went through a similar sort of script there. It is a great way of getting the message about what our parliament does and how it operates across to children who do not get the opportunity to come and see it themselves. Here in parliament every day we have many, many schools visiting—we just had one up in part of the gallery there—and it is a great experience. I certainly appreciate the PEO being able to provide that program in the electorate of Deakin.

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