by Hayley Sorensen - NT News

An exodus of male teachers from the profession is due in part to a fear of being wrongly painted as a sexual predator, an Estimates hearing has heard.

Education Minister Eva Lawler said the royal commission into child sex abuse had heightened those anxieties. Male teachers were sometimes wary of being alone in classrooms with children, she said.

Mr Lawler made the remarks in response to a question from independent Member for Blain Terry Mills about the dwindling number of men teaching in the Territory.

Ms Lawler said 22.6 per cent of NT teachers were men, with most working in high schools.

She said teaching also suffered from an image problem.

“I think it is more a community issue as well; I think it would be wonderful for males to see it as a profession of choice … it is seen as a hard career now, along with nursing,” she said.

“It’s not as sexy as being a media/communications person or being in IT.”

Mr Mills, himself a former primary school teacher and principal, said a male presence in schools was “arguably very important”.

“Most of the problems we have are young lads in need of a male; some presence, some guidance.”

Mr Mills suggested the Government launch a campaign to “celebrate” men in education.

He pointed out that other areas of the public service, including emergency services, had introduced “special measures” to boost female workplace participation.

“We do see it on the other side for gender when it is unbalanced on the female side, but we don’t tend to see it when it’s on the male side,” he said.

Ms Lawler said the Government did not plan to introduce a similar plan to entice men to teach.

“I don’t think there needs to be a campaign; I think it’s about getting our top graduates into teaching,” she said.

Opposition Leader Gary Higgins and Deputy Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro were again absent from Estimates on Thursday.

The pair chose to boycott the committee in protest of changes to its sitting hours by the Government.