by Cheryl Lacey, ©2022

(Jan. 18, 2022) — Schools operate within a complex web of Federal and State laws that have an impact on the rights and responsibilities of school leaders, students, teachers, parents and others connected to school-based education.

Many of the issues schools must address – professional conduct, student injury, child custody matters, freedom of expression, mandatory reporting and enterprise bargaining – require an understanding of the law. Then there are the common recommendations and advice for school staff, such as ‘Don’t touch children’, or ‘Don’t be left alone with a child’. From where does this come? Is it overkill? What might be the consequences of ignoring this advice?

Are Schools Marching Backwards?

Prior to the Australian Federation, the colony of Victoria introduced its first Education Act, in 1872. It outlined among other things, the purpose of free, compulsory and secular education, the role of teachers and their remuneration and the standard curriculum. 
It also included the use of school buildings, scholarships beyond the standard curriculum and the language of agreement for the Certificate for a child being sufficiently educated. It is 6 pages long, and a fascinating read.

Today, Victoria’s Education Training and Reform Act, 2006 (version 90) is more than 820 pages long. If that’s not enough, there are a further 100+ pages of the Australian Education Act, enacted in 2013 – even though the Federal government does not employ any teachers, and does not register or operate any schools. Many other Acts add to the complexity of schools and the law; all of them affect families and school employees.

In less than 150 years, Victorian Education has shifted from a doctrine of optimism to a legal quagmire. 

Its original purpose and its commitment to a free education for every child have been strangled by an obsession for more legislation. Respect for our moral footprint has all but vanished.

Victoria isn’t alone. Every Australian state and territory is suffering this same fate, as is the case in the United States, UK and so many other countries divided by power and greed on one hand, and empathy and goodwill on the other.


Cheryl Lacey
p| +61 419 518 811

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