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Schools in line for security funding

Security guards at schools will be paid for as part of the federal government’s $18 million Secure Schools funding when grants are announced this year.

The Secure Schools Program was initiated in 2007 to ''protect schools that face a special risk of attack, harassment or violence stemming from racial or religious intolerance.''

Since then, the programme has provided $35 million for security measures in 126 projects at 76 government and non‑government schools and preschools. 

In the third and most recent round of government grants handed out in 2012, 27 NSW schools were given grants to pay for security infrastructure such as CCTV, but did not include security guards.

Of the schools who received grants in 2012, Al Zahra (Muslim) College received the largest single grant of $770, 070. About 60 percent of grant recipients were Jewish schools: Emanuel School received $281,500 and its preschool $97,970; Masada College was given $419,581 and its preschool $92,400; Moriah War Memorial College received $385,500 of taxpayer funds and its four preschools a total of $715,490; and Mount Sinai College received $481,000 and its preschool $68,730.

Public schools received 27 per cent of the funding, and other ethnic schools deemed at risk of racial violence also received funding.

“Developing an inter-faith dialogue is another level of security that’s not physical... The best way to have harmony is to meet people who can have a dialogue with us.”

– Jeremy Jones, of the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council

Jewish groups say funding necessary

Leonard Hain, executive director of the Australian Council of Jewish Schools, which represents 19 of 21 Jewish schools in Australia, said, “Jewish schools face the possibility of attack given the world situation at the moment.”

He said the main fears come from “lone wolf” and “copycat” attackers rather than terrorist organisations.

Now the government is paying for security, parents’ funds that previously went to security guards could be directed to their children’s education, he said. “Tuition fees have (previously) been allocated away from education.”

“Australia should be and is generally a safe place – one of the reasons this is so is that we are conscious of the need for security.”

“What schools have done is demonstrate that there is a risk, and demonstrate they would like to implement a program.”

A spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s Department said, “Each application is assessed, in accordance with the Programme Guidelines, on the basis of the information provided by applicant schools.”

Fear of anti-Semitism

Jeremy Jones, of the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council, said, “We have reason to believe physical attacks would occur if there wasn’t any security... Jewish schools in many parts of the world have been attacked.”

Jones has been compiling information for the last 25 years on anti-Semitic attacks.

He said that the increase of fences, cameras, gates and guards is necessary, and “over many generations, (the Jewish community) doesn’t seem to have suffered psychological damage (from being surrounded by security) - not to the extent of the damage inflicted by an attack.”

He said schools use a mix of volunteer personnel from the Communal Security Group and professional security guards.

Building bridges

“Developing an inter-faith dialogue is another level of security that’s not physical... The best way to have harmony is to meet people who can have a dialogue with us,” Jones added.

Rabbi Dovid Slavin, of the Yeshiva Centre that is headquarters to Yeshiva College and the only Rabbinic College in Australia, said, “My personal interest is bringing the walls down, rather than putting them up.”

The Yeshiva Centre has used a $519,000 Secure Schools grant to build a bomb-proof wall on Flood Street, Bondi, as well as CCTV cameras and bomb-proof windows – a decision that was made with a “heavy heart”.

The rabbi also hosts many inter-faith events, which goes beyond “shaking hands with window-dressed people from other faiths,” in the centre’s big kitchen which is a centre for community service and day-release prisoners, including “a number of Muslims.”

The big kitchen brings together Muslim and Jewish kids, among others, to cook together.

“Ultimately, what the kitchen can achieve in terms of stability, the wall could never achieve.”

“(But) there’ll always be people that you won’t win over – in any society, you’ll have people that should be ‘locked up’,” Rabbi Slavin said.

He said there were “two parallel roads” that any counter-violence measures needed to travel: firstly, protection; and secondly, a major emphasis needs to be on prevention.

“What unites us is better than what divides us,” Rabbi Slavin said.

The Point

Security at schools is being supported by government

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