5 February 2021

ACT Government launches inquiry into school infrastructure, hazardous materials management

| Dominic Giannini
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Exterior of Yarralumla Primary School.

Hazardous levels of lead paint dust were found at Yarralumla Primary School in 2020. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Parents and teachers will have the chance to air their concerns about how their schools and the ACT Government are managing hazardous materials in schools, with an ACT Legislative Assembly Committee launching a new inquiry.

The inquiry into the management of school infrastructure was announced just days after parents at a fourth ACT school were notified that hazardous levels of lead paint dust were found during the recent school holidays.

It was revealed on Monday, 1 February, that levels above the hazardous threshold of lead dust were found at Richardson Primary School following routine maintenance throughout the school holidays. The school has since undergone specialist cleaning and ACT Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development Yvette Berry said she is confident the premises is safe to occupy on the advice of experts.

Around 70 public schools in the ACT contain some sort of hazardous materials, including lead paint or asbestos due to the popularity of the products in construction prior to 1992.

A dedicated task force was formed in December 2020 to coordinate the management and removal of hazardous materials across ACT public schools after dangerous lead levels associated with lead paint were found at Yarralumla Primary School, North Ainslie Primary School and Alfred Deakin High School.

READ MORE Lead paint dust found in fourth public school in the ACT

The ACT Legislative Assembly Committee inquiry will analyse issues relating to the management of hazardous materials in schools, the management of school capacity issues, classroom design, sporting facilities, the environmental sustainability of school infrastructure, and accessibility for students and teachers with disabilities.

The Standing Committee on Education and Community Inclusion, chaired by Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson, will accept public submissions until 1 May, 2021.

“We look forward to hearing from as many people as possible about school infrastructure in the ACT and what improvements the community would like to see,” said Mr Pettersson.

Johnathan Davis from the ACT Greens and Peter Cain from the Canberra Liberals also sit on the committee, which will report to the ACT Legislative Assembly in December 2021.

More information about getting involved in the inquiry and making a public submission is available here.

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