The Parents and Friends’ Federation of WA was the first Federation of non-government school parent groups in Australia and was the first to obtain any public recurrent funding for non-Government school children anywhere in Australia.
In 1965 the Brand Liberal Government in Western Australia took the historic step of being the first Government in Australia to make per-capita recurrent (operating) payments to children in non-government schools. Secondary school students in WA initially received £10 per child per year from 1965, and similar payments were extended to non-government primary school children in WA in 1967.
From 1971, again commencing in WA, Catholic Education Commissions and (later, in 1975) School Boards were established in all States to provide a more professional approach to the problems of administration, accountability and distribution of funds.
It is important for parents to realise that, despite the welcome establishment of the Catholic Education Commission of WA (and similar bodies) some 17 years after the Federation began the struggle for parental freedom of choice and educational funding justice, the need for grass-roots political pressure is an on-going one – it is not diminished by the establishment of such administrative bodies, and the need now really is as urgent as ever. In fact, because of increasing education costs, the per pupil ‘public spending gap’ between government and non-government school students, in dollar terms, is larger now than it was in 1965; and even the highest-funded non-government school students still only receive funding equivalent to about 70% of real average government school per pupil costs.
The issue of education funding is primarily one to be debated between taxpayers and their elected Parliamentary representatives – not between Church and State, as has been portrayed by some of our opponents over the years.
The responsibility for continually exercising political influence must be accepted by school communities and by individual parents, and not just left to non-government school administrators and Church agencies, or the P&F Federation and the Australian Parents’ Council. Letters, petitions and meetings with Members of Parliament are all useful strategies.
Archbishop Hickey, as have other Archbishops before him, encourages affiliation with and support of the Parents and Friends’ Federation of Western Australia Inc. In his ‘Introduction to the Federation Handbook’, Archbishop Hickey says, “It is my hope that the Federation will remain strongly supported by parents around the State, so that its ongoing contribution to education standards and just levels of Government funding is guaranteed.”
STRUGGLE & ACHIEVEMENT: a history of the Parents & Friends’ Federation of Western Australia Inc. (1954-2004), compiled by Dr. Hal G P Colebatch, MA LLB, PhD, was launched at the June 2007 Annual Dinner and is available for purchase from the Federation office.
To read about the PFFWA’s involvement in the Australian Parents Council and its role in advocating for federal funding, click here.