Equality, Social Inclusion and School Funding
Private schools are, by their very nature, exclusive. Public schools, in contrast, must cater to all. Now some private schools are still more exclusive than others – Abbotsleigh, Knox Grammar or St. Josephs are part of an elite club to which the Catholic parish school does not belong. Yet, where once there was sectarian and even class division in the ranks of private schools, there is now a unified voice. That is what guaranteed public funding of private schools has produced. Many of you will recall that some of the loudest voices against government funding of private schools in the 1960s were spokesmen for the elite Protestant schools, church leaders frightened of the Catholic hordes who would be granted access to some social wealth if Government was to prop up the parish school. When Whitlam brought in generous school funding, however, a gravy train beckoned and the elite private schools jumped on board. Paradoxically, as greater levels of funding have shifted to the private school sector, the social divide has become much starker than it was in the 1960s. One of the reasons that Australia is a less equal society than it was in the 1960s is the shift from public to private schools aided by Government policy spawned under the false rubric of choice.