Abuse fears scuttle Shalom high facility
By Sam Bidey
November 19, 2017
A TOWNSVILLE school under the microscope at a royal commission investigation into child sexual abuse will shut down its secondary and boarding education.
Shalom Christian College, currently a Prep to Year 12 school, will only accept primary students next year, cutting its enrolment by more than half and ceasing its role as an indigenous boarding school for the “welfare” of children.
The Uniting Church-owned and operated Condon school was heavily scrutinised as part of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
In November 2016, a former principal of Shalom, Christopher Shirley, told the royal commission that the school dealt with about 20 sexual assaults a year.
The mother of a girl who was allegedly gang raped at the age of 14 in 2006 told the royal commission the school had tried to cover up the attack.
Last year, Shalom Christian College principal Christopher England said he could not provide a safe environment for students in the boarding houses with the resource levels available.
Reverend David Baker, moderator of the Uniting Church in Queensland, said the primary school was only guaranteed to run in 2018, with the long-term future of the school uncertain.
“This decision has been based solely on the welfare and best interests of our students,” Rev Baker said.
“We have a duty to ensure we are providing the best possible educational experience for them and we believe this is the format in which we can fulfil that duty.
“We emphasise that we have a responsibility to ensure the school is a safe, supportive and productive learning environment.
“The Uniting Church is committed to operating the primary school in its current form until the end of 2018.”
There were about 140 secondary students and 110 primary students enrolled at the school this year, including 46 boarders.
The Education Department will intervene to ensure the children impacted by the closure can continue their education at other schools.
Education Minister Kate Jones said this was a “distressing” time for families and staff.
“That’s why we’ll do everything possible to support students and staff displaced,” she said. “We believe we’ll be able to accommodate all students at local state schools and we’ll work with families to offer this solution. We will also work with the school and scholarship providers to support the transfer of boarders.”
Ms Jones said where possible, the department would also try to accommodate staff looking for work.
Rev Baker said the Uniting Church would work with the Education Department.
“This will no doubt be distressing news for many people and we apologise to those who will be affected by the changes,” he said.
“However, we must do what we feel is best for the students, and that means focusing our efforts on providing a high-quality primary school offering in 2018, and assisting secondary students to transition to study elsewhere.”
The school opened in 1992 for preschool and Year 1 students and by 1994 had expanded to cater for classes up to Year 8.