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Rural and Remote Education - WA


and Remote Education - WA

Meeting at Kimberley Land

Council, Derby, 19 May 1999 - notes

The Kimberley Land

Council is situated in Derby. The KLC made a formal appearance at the

Inquiry's hearing in Broome. This meeting was organised by the KLC for

community members.

Olive Knight prepared

comments entitled "Educational Needs of Children". Some of the main points

raised in that paper include

  • The need for appropriately

    trained teachers in Aboriginal education. Suggests a need to have incentives

    to attract mature experienced teachers to go to Aboriginal schools.

  • Aboriginal children

    are missing out on some basic skills. Is there a need for more 'chalk

    and talk' basics?

  • Aboriginal children

    are used to learning from elders in groups, and individual one on one

    instruction is barely used.

  • Research shows

    that teaching language in preschools helps with retention rates. Some

    children have English as not as a second but a third language. There

    should be Aboriginal language proficient teachers at least up to high


  • Is the school

    day appropriate? It might be more worthwhile to have a condensed day

    of 7am to 1pm rather than 9am to 3pm or 8am to 2pm.

  • Are week in weekend

    out systems inappropriate for Aboriginal children or would a three week

    in and one week out system work better?

  • The need for cultural

    training of teachers before they are sent out to a school. A new teacher

    should be taught the history of the area, the uniqueness of language

    and people, proper behaviour, address techniques and socially approved

    and disapproved practices.

There should be recognition

of the cultural and aspirational diversity of the State, not a blanket

Aboriginal policy that could be counterproductive.

"Educational and

government leaders must realise that they do not have a monopoly on wisdom."

Secondary education

The state school

in Derby imparts a sense of personal confidence and friendliness to students

but does not have high academic expectations of students. Many families

relocate their whole lives for the children's secondary education.

Retention rates

The retention rate

for students across the Kimberley for non-Aboriginal students is only

about 21% to Year 12. There is a sudden decline after Year 10. For Aboriginal

students retention rates are about 11%. For Aboriginal students the decline

starts after Year 7. Attendance rates are perhaps even worse than retention


Leaving town for

a secondary education

Because the secondary

education in Derby is not seen as high quality, some students leave to

study elsewhere. The only real choice is Perth. However, children from

Derby or more isolated places are 'totally lost' in Perth. Students need

to be fully supported when they attend secondary school in Perth. In order

to do this whole families leave town, leaving behind friends, family and


When one young student

herself decided that she wanted to go down south to Perth to attend high

school, the mother had to leave work and travel with her daughter to find

a school that was going to support her.

There is a bit of

an attitude that students will not be able to make it right through secondary


"My daughter nearly

didn't make it. But it was only because of my personal resources and the

culture and background that I was able to provide that for her, but that

did include family support."

"It goes beyond technical

teaching or family support. It's almost an attitude to be combined with

an awareness of the context of where students are coming from."

It was suggested

that there be secondary education alternatives which are closer to home

than Perth and which can provide an on-site supportive environment, similar

to Notre Dame University. Perth is too far away. There should be somewhere

in the Kimberley. Clontarf College in Perth is beginning to cater for

the specific cultural needs of the Aboriginal students who attend.

Training teachers

to understand non-standard English

Teachers need to

have cultural training and training in Aboriginal dialects. One woman

commented on her daughter's early education.

"When she first started

education her first language was a Kriol. By then she understood Standard

English very fluently but her sound system was not Standard English. So

she went to a school in Broome and was taught a particular style of phonics

and my sense was that right from the start there was a sense of failure

of what happened to her and her education. A lack of awareness of where

she was coming from."

Community involvement

in the school

"What for me has

always made a difference working in independent community schools was

when a community was part of the school and involved in the school there

would be 100% attendance and there truly would be. But when the community

was going through a bad time and were away a lot, then the attendance

would drop."

"Schools that seem

to work the best are the smallest one's, especially the outlying remote

ones with a high student teacher ratio. But its expensive...What does

seem to make a difference is the connection of the teachers with the pupils

and the community."

Teaching out of

the classroom setting

"More education could

be brought out of school and more education could be provided in people's

workplaces or whatever they are doing. This goes across the board. People

are motivated when they see a purpose in it. Often it's in that school

context for Indigenous or even non-Indigenous students, effective learning

could take place in an office or out mending fences if it was tied to

people with good teaching skills."

This would be especially

good for young men who need to get away from school. This should be a

whole approach to way that you learn and develop.

There was discussion

about introducing opportunities for real work for young people on a part

time basis. They could learn some vocational skills and apply what they

learn at school. This stimulates them to look at career options and makes

education relevant.


updated 2 December 2001.