This article argues that public education needs to be reclaimed to fulfill its role as a 'democratising force' to address social and economic inequality and to respect and recognise diversity and difference.
By analysing historical developments in federal policy, funding and economic contexts a case is developed to demonstrate that the role of the state has been dismantled and the public nature of education has been reduced. The factors responsible are articulated and discussed with particular reference to the impact of neo-liberal policy, the 'marketisation' of education and new public management. Measures such as those taken by Education Queensland that support the development of school leaders and teachers to engage in research, development and critical debate are supported. International examples of how systems have revitalised and supported the public nature of education are discussed. These include more intelligent accountability systems that respect the professionalism of teachers and collaborative curriculum development strategies that engage with all, including those who are least powerful such as the students.