REGIONAL Parents and Citizens associations will have a new voice at the state level after education minister Adrian Piccoli took the dramatic step on Tuesday of dissolving the NSW federation.
The move has shocked federation representatives, including Uralla-based publicity officer Rachael Sowden, who said it was disappointing given the work that had gone into resolving the problems that have plagued it for a decade.
The NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens (P&C) Associations has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons after factional infighting and allegations of bullying prompted Mr Piccoli to step in.
He froze funding to the organisation last year and in March refused to rule out introducing legislation that would force reform.
Yesterday, he introduced legislation to dissolve the federation, saying it had had years to sort out its internal problems and he was no longer willing to wait.
Mrs Sowden told The Leader it was disappointing given the federation recognised there were changes that needed to be made and they had planned to bring options for reform to the annual general meeting in July.
“The concern we have is that we were so close to implementing changes ... and now our members won’t be given the opportunity to make these changes themselves,” she said.
Mrs Sowden said every time they had approached Mr Piccoli seeking his support for internal reform he indicated he wasn’t able to assist.
“Now this has been sprung on us; it’s a bit of a blindside really,” she said.
She said yesterday they had still had no direct communication with the minister and the extent of their knowledge about the reforms went only as far as what had been in the media.
Mrs Sowden said the federation knew it had to act and had several versions of a new constitution “ready to go” for members to vote on at the AGM.
“It’s not that we didn’t agree changes were needed – we recognised a lot of things were broken ... and the governance needed to be tightened up.”
Mrs Sowden told The Leader in March many of the problems stemmed from too many representatives – up to 106 – on the council.
Mr Piccoli revealed the new legisation included a division of the state into 16 representative areas, the election of a new seven-member executive committee (with only 48 people
eligible to attend the AGM) and, most controversially, the banning of parents without children at school from being involved in the new state body.
Mrs Sowden disagreed with that move, saying the organisation’s name – Parents and
Citizens – recognised the community’s interest in their local schools.
“There are many citizens – who may not necessarily have children still at school – who have something valuable to say and a skill-set that the P and C may need,” she said.
Elections for the new federation will be held in the next few months and it’s expected a new governing body will be in place by term four.
Mrs Sowden said she hadn’t decided if she would seek re-election.