SYDNEY (JTA) – Jewish preschools in Australia will receive funds for a security upgrade under a federal government program.
Jewish preschools were allocated between $200,000 and $400,000 under the Secure Schools program. The program, Minister for Home Affairs Jason Clare said at the announcement Tuesday for increased funding to preschools, is targeted to schools at risk of racial, religious or ethnically motivated violence, property crime or harassment.
Michael Danby, a Jewish federal lawmaker, joined Clare for the announcement.
“People targeting our schools do not differentiate between preschools, primary schools or high schools,” he said. “Earlier this year we saw the tragedy in France where four people died at a Jewish preschool. I am pleased to see this funding being provided to help keep our preschools safe.”
The Secure School program, launched in 2008, has allocated $21 million of its $35 million pool to Jewish schools, according to the Australian Council of Jewish Schools, with $8.2 million going to Sydney, $10.9 million to Melbourne and the other states sharing $2.6 million.
Peter Wertheim, executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said the Jewish community welcomed the expansion of the Secure Schools program to include preschools.
"In taking this important action, the government has recognized that the safety and well-being of our youngest citizens deserves special attention," Wertheim said. "We would all prefer that security expenditure for preschools was not necessary, but sadly that is not the case, as can be seen from overseas and local attacks against Jewish community targets. Regrettably, incitement to racism is becoming more not less of a problem, often hiding disingenuously behind the mantra of ‘free speech.’ "