As Crikey predicted late last year, Northern Territory Education Minister Marion Scrymgour’s tenure was fragile at best.

Now, at the very start of the new school year, NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson has acted and dumped Scrymgour from the key portfolio. No reasons were given but there has been widespread dissatisfaction with Scrymgour’s performance as Education Minister.

According to his press release issued late this morning:

Deputy Leader Marion Scrymgour is the new Minister for Justice and Attorney-General. Ms Scrymgour will also be the Minister for Racing, Gaming and Licensing, and Alcohol Policy.

And Hendo has taken on the onerous post of Education Minister for himself.

Scrymgour made an absolute hash of the Education portfolio. The rot started when she unceremoniously dumped Education CEO Margaret Banks and then released a cobbled-together policy of a mandatory four hours of English in all NT school beginning at the start of the 2009 school year.

It is too early yet to tell what the fallout from that policy has been on the ground and whether that policy has been able to be effectively implemented. But there are an awful lot of educators in the NT unhappy with the way they, and the long-standing bilingual programs of which they are justifiably proud, have been treated by Scrymgour and the cabal of senior administrators and advisors running Education policy in the NT.

Scrymgour remains as the most powerful elected Aboriginal politician in the country — even Hendo couldn’t come at cutting her out from the Deputy Chief Minister’s gig. But more than a few will be keeping a close eye on her performance as Justice Minister and Attorney-General — a job for which she appears to have few qualifications.

Similar questions arise about Hendo’s qualifications to serve as Education Minister — in that capacity, he has a meeting scheduled for tonight with a lobby group of (very) concerned educators now given real cause for concern about the future of education in the NT.

Watch this space — the Territory education and legal sectors certainly will be!

Peter Fray

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