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NT Aboriginal boarding school in jeopardy

AAP logoAAP 18/10/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

Almost 300 Northern Territory children have rallied outside Parliament House demanding the government save Australia's largest Aboriginal boarding school.

Darwin's Kormilda School, which has severe financial woes, is at risk of closing and wants further support beyond a $5.1 million NT government bailout.

In September the government provided the money to keep the private school afloat until the end of the 2016 school year amid fiscal mismanagement by the school's board.

Aboriginal AFL legend Michael Long called on both the federal and Territory governments to secure Kormilda's funding for 2017 while a more permanent structure is arranged.

He urged the government to scrap the royal commission into youth detention and invest in Aboriginal education instead.

"Kormilda is so far one of the best solutions available and now it's at risk of closing," Long said.

"200 Aboriginal children will be sent back to the bush."

Operating for nearly 50 years, the college caters for indigenous boarders from 35 communities across the NT and WA that have high levels of poverty and low school attendance rates.

It has 660 students and can accommodate 230 indigenous boarders.

Former Kormilda student Susanne Munkara graduated year 12 last year, and said education is the key to unlocking the potential in Aboriginal youngsters.

"Unless you've lived in the community you don't know what it's like to go back there," she said.

"Without education we can't bring our people forward."

At an emergency meeting last night, the school's board stepped aside and handed responsibly to an interim steering committee.

The Kormilda School Community Alliance's Bethany Maley says the government needs to give assurances to students and also to the 150 staff members who could be unemployed before Christmas.

It costs $40,000 for one remote Aboriginal student to attend the college per year.

The school receives the majority of its funding from the federal government, and each indigenous border currently receives $11,000 per year from the Commonwealth and $2000 per year from the Territory.

Education Minister Eva Lawler said she's deeply concerned that the board has led the college to such a dire financial situation.

"We recognise this poor management has been exacerbated by declining student enrolments and reduced funding from the previous CLP government," she said.

Labor has appointed an independent auditor to go through the school's books and a decision on its fate is hoped to be known by early November.

"This is to ensure due diligence is taken prior to government making a decision about Kormilda College's future," Ms Lawler said.

She confirmed year 11 students will avoid having to repeat the grade if they move to the public school system to complete the International Baccalaureate program.

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