There’s this crazy little thing called Government that we all need to survive…. It has only recently occurred to me that our country is only a democracy for one day every three years (okay, two if you include State elections). The rest of the 1,094 days (give or take a few), we are effectively a dictatorship. Yes, I’m apparently slow on the uptake.

My disenchantment with politics and the political process is by no means new, but my disillusionment has grown to epic proportions.

The Victorian State Government recently released the draft Education and Training Reform Regulations (2017), a horrifically biased and scary document, especially as it applies to home education and children with special needs in school. I will not go into detail, as there are already adequate summaries available on what the proposed changes entail and what they will mean for home educating families.

I have recently discovered the ineffectiveness of our system. I call it a dictatorship because having your voice heard on an issue, let alone effecting any change, is monumentally difficult. I should know. A group of us have been working hard at it.

When I recently called the Department of Education and Training (DET) to find out when the new regulations would be tabled, I was informed that the plan was to table them a handful (and I mean less than four) days before the current regulations sunset. I questioned that – what if the regulations are disallowed by the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee? Or by the Legislative Council? And how can scrutiny happen after the current regulations have sunset?

Apparently, all is well. The current regulations will sunset. The new regulations, which we have been vehemently opposing, will come into effect. According to DET there is no way that they will be disallowed. (I’m getting a tick in my eye just writing this). This is because, and I quote DET here, “The regulations will have already been through so many checks and balances” by the time they are tabled.

I was stupefied. Really? I was unaware of these gatekeepers of people’s freedoms and rights, especially in relation to being heard by the Government Machine and its rusty cogs.

So, I pressed. What checks and balances? Could they enumerate them for me so I could contact these esteemed and worthy institutions which would safeguard our right to fair, consultative and supportive regulations? Well, here they are:

  1. The consultation process that occurs with stakeholders before the draft regulations are written. Oh, whoops, they forgot to do that. Despite being reminded by the Home Education Network. Despite receiving submissions from home educators. Must have slipped their minds that home educators are stakeholders in…. home education, and that therefore their opinions, knowledge, expertise and concerns must be taken into account. Never mind. Onward and upward….
  2. The Office for the Commissioner for Better Regulation. I must admit, I have never been so grateful not to have a mouthful of tea. Ever. I would have sprayed it all over my lovely Lenovo. Um, yeah, Anna Cronin. The esteemed, trustworthy, honourable and effective Commissioner for Better Regulation. Who in her letter certifying the draft Education Regulations misquoted, misinterpreted and misled. Quite appallingly, in fact. I think she must have read a different set of documents and mistakenly rubber stamped those instead.
  3. The submission process. Well, as a community we made over 400 submissions. I would be surprised if they change much other than the decoys they have inserted. That will be their “compromise”. I await their responses to my eight submissions with bated breath. The very Department whose questionable standards have lead many to home educate are writing the rules on home education. Yep. I told you, I am disillusioned and jaded.
  4. The Governor’s Council. I was excited about this until I realised that this “check” is performed by the Premier and his Ministers. Need I say more?
  5. The Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee. I really, really hope this is not true. DET told me that SARC just rubber stamp everything. I want to believe that a committee composed of a majority of MPs from the Government will be fair. I want to believe. I want to. Very much. I know there are good eggs on the SARC. But are any of them from the Labour Government?? Will they, for the first time in the 18 months since the current Government came into power, stick their necks out and go against their party?

So, here I sit, jaded, disillusioned, tired, but very, very hopeful. Let’s hope the rusty old wheels can squeak into action, and stop the Government giving complete power to an Authority that is hostile to home education. Let’s hope that power is not deferred to a process that is beyond parliamentary scrutiny. Let’s hope that this crazy little thing called Government will work in the favour of justice, fairness, and human rights.

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