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A brief history of the Flynn saga

Since the controversial school closures of 2006, the Flynn Primary School has become a saga of failed consultations and missed opportunities.

2006 The most notorious and widely criticised consultation was the Flynn closure as part of the mass school closures in 2006. While The Costello Functional Review has still not been released, the reasons behind the school closures, and Flynn in particular, were revealed through FOI documents and School Closure Inquiry some years afterwards.

  • The land value for redevelopment of the sites (not education merits, spare desks or demographics) was certainly a factor – Flynn has a large square area of flat land with high land value.
  • While Flynn had the higher enrolments and demographic advantage of neighbouring schools considered for closure, it did not have its Parent Association President working as Senior Adviser for and attending school closure meetings for then Chief Minister Jon Stanhope, as the Mt Rogers/Melba school did.
  • Social impacts and heritage values were not adequately considered in the school closures.

2006–2012 Heritage and community value: Heritage and community value was not adequately considered before the school closure or since then.

  • Despite commitments to treat the Flynn school site as if heritage listed, developments have gone ahead contrary to the Burra Charter and ACT Heritage guidelines.
  • The Flynn school site is included on Australian Institute of Architects’ (AIA) listing of ACT Significant Twentieth Century architecture and being independently (AIA) rated as meeting the threshold criteria for heritage listing, but the ACT Heritage Council has not yet included Flynn for provisional heritage listing.
  • Importantly, the interpretation of community value now set by ACAT and the Supreme Court sets the bar for heritage listing on this criteria at such a high level as to be to be unattainable for almost any place in the ACT, unless supported by bodies like the AIA and the ACT Heritage Council.

2007 Future use proposal: The Flynn community worked with TaMS Minister John Hargreaves to develop an innovative proposal for future use of the school. A great opportunity to work together to introduce the multi-use lifelong learning and community centre has been postponed by the refusal to negotiate the proposal over the next five years.

2007 Purdon’s process: The consultation process looking at future use of the school sites was scrapped after producing perverse recommendations for demolition and housing development that contradicted the overwhelming community desire for a school and community centre and protection of grounds and heritage at the site

2007–2009 Inquiries: The School Closure Inquiry and the Supreme Court challenge of school closures shed more light on the mistakes made in closing a number of schools. This led to a motion before the Assembly to re-open four schools including Flynn. The opportunity was missed when the ACT Greens declared the motion a stunt and indefinitely deferred any discussion or consideration of it.

2009–2010 DHCS future use: A joint working group was set up between DHCS (now CSD) and the JFCG. The MindPath Report found that CSD had a hidden agenda, unacceptably poor work practices and provided inaccurate and one-side briefs to Ministers and the Assembly. It took advantage of an apparent breakdown in consultations to install a childcare provider without the open tender process deemed essential. The Government ‘called in’ the childcare development without giving due regard to community values, the objections made to the DA or the standards of the Burra Charter and ACT Heritage Guidelines.

2011–12 Expression of Interest process: The EOI applications are being considered by a joint committee made up of CSD and JFCG. The EOI has not produced an outcome yet and many of the same issues that applied in 2009-2010 are apparently repeating.

Images from Flynn

Angles on the textured concrete walls


Flynn grounds

Landscape setting & grounds

Enrico Taglietti visting the school he designed

History and design

Memorial to John Flynn

Memorial to John Flynn