The Future of SAPSASA


Mr DULUK (Waite) (15:28): My question is to the Minister for Education. Minister, will you provide some clarity regarding the future of SAPSASA and guarantee the continued use of the SAPSASA logo and name? Sir, with your leave and that of the house, I will further explain.


Mr DULUK: The South Australian Public Schools Amateur Sport Association was established in 1912 and has long been a respected primary school level competition run by community volunteers for the betterment of children's sporting development. It was recently revealed by The Advertiser's Messenger that the Department for Education planned to reshape SAPSASA's infrastructure. Will you, the minister, commit to retaining the current SAPSASA country and metropolitan district programs and competitions?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (15:29): I thank the member for the question. It is indeed an issue that has been of significant concern to a number of people around South Australia over the last couple of weeks. Indeed, many, many thousands of South Australians have a proud affiliation and love and involvement in the history of SAPSASA as a program. We are very keen to keep it, and I give that commitment to keeping SAPSASA. This was an issue drawn to my attention personally by the member for Colton a couple of weeks ago.

Members may be aware that the member for Colton is Australia's greatest ever Paralympian, with 13 gold medals and 23 medals for Australia, as part of an extraordinary career prior to his current extraordinary career serving the people of South Australia. Members may or may not be aware that prior to that the member for Colton represented in South Australian SAPSASA swimming teams, competing with all South Australian student swimmers and making those state teams.

It is fair to say, if I can characterise it, that the member for Colton demonstrated to me a certain passion for SAPSASA and the way the program had been running. To put it into some context, School Sport SA is a Department for Education program for all South Australian students. It includes SAPSASA representative pathways and school events for primary school students. They operate within those 40 historical SAPSASA district boundaries. Within the Department for Education, they raised some concerns around equity in relation to the make-up of those boundaries.

There were some discussions with other sectors over a couple of years, and I understand that a set of proposals was drafted by School Sport SA, which was presented to other stakeholders on 4 August this year at a meeting. Those proposals made their way through stakeholders to the member for Colton, to my office in short order. The member for Colton very articulately described his concerns, some of which flowed very, very quickly after in further correspondence I had.

My instinctive reaction initially was to speak to the education department to get clarity—indeed, firstly, to understand that these were proposals that were identified. It wasn't a final decision, which of course had not reached me. I provided some feedback initially that there was very little likelihood that the proposals would be complete in the draft that they had been presented.

When it became clear that the consultation process was instigating some concern in the community, including among many SAPSASA members, I felt it was appropriate to cut the time for that consultation short to indicate an absolute commitment to retaining the existing program, certainly for next year, and further give this commitment, which I reiterate now, that any further changes or improvements that might be made to anything will not be in the manner described in those proposals.

I am open to considering any improvements—certainly improvements that gain the support of all the schooling sectors and certainly improvements that gain the support of the SAPSASA organisation. The Department for Education is engaging with stakeholders from school sectors to develop any further proposals that would increase opportunities for student participation. What I will say is that we will not be interested in exploring any proposals of the nature that would decease participation for any group of students or indeed for any schooling sectors.

I am open to proposals that will increase the investment we make in school sports and increase opportunities for students. We are not interested in any proposals that will decrease that. I thank the member for Colton, and indeed other members of parliament and members of the community, for making those representations. I am very pleased that we are a government that was able to see a concern and put that concern to bed without hesitation.