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Rural and Remote Education - WA


and Remote Education - WA

Fitzroy Crossing community

meeting, 19 May 1999 - notes

Information about

the school at Fitzroy Crossing

There are 220 primary

school children at Fitzroy Crossing and 50 secondary students. 80% of

the primary students at Fitzroy Crossing and 95% of the secondary students

are Aboriginal. Many non-Aboriginal students are schooled outside of Fitzroy

Crossing. They either board away from home or their family relocates to

a larger community.

The school provides

a Kindergarten to Year 12 program.

The school has 3

administrative staff and 21 teaching staff. This includes 2 pre-primary

teachers. There is one English Language And Numeracy (ELAN) teacher who

provides curriculum support programs for children with specific learning

needs. There are 6 Aboriginal and Islander Education Workers at the school.

These positions are allocated positions and the school has applied for

more. The Local Aboriginal Corporation provides funding for one Aboriginal

Liaison Officer.

Attached to the school

is a mobile pre-primary teacher who provides a service to surrounding

remote communities. One of the 6 Aboriginal Education Workers works with

the mobile unit.

"We have a K-12 school

with a student centred program. Student numbers limit the amount of teachers

and therefore the face to face teaching. We have only 50 kids in the secondary

area so that determines the staffing levels. This number varies. There

are 220 kids at the primary and kindergarten levels."

"The numbers at the

school are so variable. We can have 15 kids one day and 50 kids another

day. The majority of children do not go through from Year 8 to 12."

"We don't have enough

numbers at the secondary level to provide much of a program for the children.

We have undertaken a project (Cultural Health, Fitzroy Crossing) to identify

the children at primary school who may go on to secondary school and we

are currently trying to support them in that. What we are finding though,

is that the children who are coming up through the primary school aren't

able to cope with the secondary school level of education."

Educational levels

"Secondary schooling

is not meeting the needs of my child. We may have to send him to boarding

school but this is very expensive and outside of our reach at the moment.

We may have to relocate to a centre where there are more educational options

for our children, but this is not really what we want to do. We have made

a commitment to work here and we would like to stay here."

"The educational

programs are pitched at the level of the kids. This means that the standard

is not at the level of the masses, but there is no point in teaching kids

at a level that they don't understand. These are the same issues that

affect all small rural areas. If you don't have the critical numbers then

you can't do the things that you want to do."

"Through technology

like Telematics and video-conferencing the school can provide for different

levels. If students aren't at the same level as the other students then

we can provide an alternative."

"One idea has been

to set up a portable at the primary school for some children so that they

don't have to go to Fitzroy Crossing Secondary School and they can stay

on and do their schooling. This class would be managed centrally."

Capital works

There is an urgent

need for capital works for the Fitzroy school. The primary school classrooms

are too small and when it rains the rain pours through the roof of the

classroom. There is a need for a capital upgrade. One of the plans for

the enlarged primary classrooms is to fit more than one computer in the

classroom and to have a team teaching environment with information technology

support. I can see we will have to wait because it took 10 years of submission

writing and lobbying to get a covered basketball court.


"We are picking up

kids from the school, but we find that the kids have a very low literacy


"The problem for

these people is that there are plenty of courses that they want to do,

but they find that they can't do them because they don't have the literacy

level. As we provide accredited courses we have to make sure that they

are delivered at the levels to which they are accredited. We have a system

though, where we find language tutors to assist our students to meet these


Aboriginal children

"I went to boarding

school and I had to send my child to boarding school to get an education.

Out of all of the Aboriginal kids in Western Australia there were only

3 that did the Tertiary Entrance in the State."

"Most of our kids

that are high achievers are away from here, usually down in Perth. The

problem when the kids go away is that they suffer a culture shock. And

when they go down to Perth to do Year 12, they have to step down to do

Year 11 because they can't cope with the work down there."

Indigenous issues

"We met with the

Education Department the other day for 5 minutes. They put a Local Area

Plan document to us and asked us to endorse it and they call this community


"The Government has

produced only limited funds to put into place the 20-20 Local Area Plan.

They haven't consulted with the communities. We produced our own plan

for 20-20. This includes building a Secondary Campus on neutral land."

"One of the issues

at Fitzroy Crossing is that there is ownership over the land by different

communities. At the moment the school is on Garnuwa land. That means that

for some communities the school is considered to be a Garnuwa school.

Therefore they won't send their kids to secondary school because of that

stigma. We need a school that is located on neutral ground with state-of-the-art

teaching facilities and a satellite."


The Disability Services

Commission at Fitzroy Crossing provides services to families and has a

coordinating role amongst other services including the Transport Department

and the Education Department. Recently, the Commission has had difficulty

negotiating with the Education and Transport Departments in working towards

the modification of a school bus for a child with a disability. When contacted

to solve this transport problem, the Departments both passed the responsibility

backwards and forwards and consequently nothing has been resolved. Some

of the suggestions from the Departments have been that non-government

organisations should be dealing with these transport issues.

"My daughter has

a disability and she has a wheelchair. One problem we have is the modification

of buses. She is getting too heavy to lift into the car (she is 14 years

old). She is also unable to go on school excursions. The Education Department

says that it is not their responsibility. Well whose responsibility is

it? At Fitzroy Crossing we have only one modified bus and that is used

every day for Aged Care. We don't have any modified taxis. I have also

been trying to get my daughter into a boarding school in Perth but I have

not been able to find one that can cater for her needs."

The school has been

set up to cater for children with disabilities, including the modification

of facilities, the employment of a full-time support teacher and the building

of ramps, though they have not been able to resolve the transport problems.

The WA Education

Department policy on disability is one of integration. Each child has

an allocation of time; it is a fraction of a position. This includes the

provision of support for children with intellectual or learning disabilities.

It is the job of the integration aid to develop curriculum and programs

for children in mainstream classes.

Fitzroy Crossing

Secondary School has access to a psychological service that provides 3

visits to the school per term for 2 to 3 days at a time. One of the issues

for the school is the level to which the child has a disability. The Department

has criteria for measuring disability and will only provide support for

children who fit these criteria. Part of the problem for school occurs

when then children are assessed to have learning difficulties, but they

do not fit the Education Department categories. The classroom teacher

must provide the support for these children. Classroom teachers develop

Individual Education Programs for children not eligible for classroom


One of the most common

disabilities for children at Fitzroy Crossing is otitis media. Staff at

the school claim that the Department does not acknowledge this as a disability

and therefore does not resource the school to provide support for these


"My daughter has

had otitis media since pre-primary. This has had a vast impact on her

learning. I have had to struggle with this problem. There is nothing in

the classroom to deal with this problem. There are long waiting lists

for the specialists to see my daughter and meanwhile her education is

suffering. There are many children in remote regions with the same problems

and these problems are not being addressed."

"The problem with

otitis media is that the hearing levels are always fluctuating. The hearing

might be satisfactory one month and poor the next. It is so difficult

to cater for the needs of children with these problems and it is affecting

their learning. They do have operations to replace the eardrums, but when

they are done before the age of 10 they break down and the kids are back

on the waiting list for another operation. This makes the kids and the

parents very upset. The children have to go 400 kilometres away and the

bus comes back to Fitzroy Crossing at 1.30 in the morning. Isolated Patients

Transport Assistance Scheme does provide for a parent to accompany the

child to the place of the operation, but this is not always possible when

the mother has a new baby."

"Otitis media has

more serious implications for children who have a language background

of Kriol and Walmajarri as their first languages. Given that they are

required to become proficient in English, some of these children hardly

hear any English at all. At the school where I teach, we have only just

got road access to Fitzroy Crossing, and we have just got a TV as of 3

weeks ago. Before that, I was the only English speaker in the community.

Many of the children have otitis media and their English language education

is seriously compromised because of the combination of language factors

and the hearing difficulties. Something like 90% of the kids at my school

have otitis media."

"We have Listen Plus

at our school, but regardless of whether the sound is amplified, the sound

is still a muffle. If you have eardrum damage, it is like having your

fingers in your ears."

"The incidence of

otitis media today in Fitzroy is less due to cleaner water and better

nutrition and housing and greater access to community health. It is certainly

better than it was 10 years ago."

English as a Second

Language (ESL)

"The fact that most

of the children that we teach have ESL is not recognised here at Fitzroy

and it is not resourced. In Perth, children who speak ESL have access

to language resources. Here, the ESL issues are not acknowledged."

"Immigrant children

receive English language training and they are often literate in another

language. The Aboriginal children here are not literate in their own language.

The Department does not recognise this. To have 30 kids in the one class,

given these issues, is just unworkable. In Kununurra, a trial was conducted

where they had 10 kids to 1 teacher. The improvement in literacy levels

was remarkable. The teacher-pupil ratio is crucial in the success of language

learning programs."

"The Aboriginal Liaison

Unit has made representations to the Education Department in relation

to this issue. We know that there is money available but it is only for

a short period of time, it is only for one year and while this suits immigrant

students who are literate in their own language it does not suit our children."

Language learning

"At Fitzroy Crossing

we have 4 different language groups. Each receives one hour of LOTE per

week. As you can imagine. This is a complex process involving pulling

children out of classes at different times. It takes a lot of time and

resources to build up the program for the languages. Currently the LOTE

programs run up until Year 10."

"Linguists will tell

you that language is dying in areas such as Fitzroy that is why it is

so important that it be taught in the schools. Language is not just about

learning Walmajarri; it is also about culture."



"We have found some

difficulty with the changing literacy strategies. Once it was the "Phonic"

approach and then it was the "Whole Word" approach. In a small remote

school where you have teachers changing all the time, the principal changing

and changes to the language program you find that there is a real lack

of continuity for the kids."

School retention


"One of the reasons

that adolescents don't stay at school is because there are no jobs. You

also have adolescent girls leaving school to have babies. But you find

that some of these young people go back to TAFE after a period away from

school. I think we have to change the way we think about school from being

K-12 to being more like life-long learning. We need to look beyond the

Western model. Similarly, the Western outcomes might not cater for the

children in this area. Yet through the accreditation process we are bound

by the Western models."

Education, training

and employment programs

Residents of Fitzroy

Crossing set up the Fitzroy Valley Education and Training Committee to

investigate the education and training needs of 12 to 22 year old Aboriginal

young people. The Committee obtained funding to establish the employment

options for the young people and to match employment with training. Positions

have been identified through the local Aboriginal Corporation (Leedal)

at the both the community owned supermarket and 50% owned hotel. The project

intention is to train students for these identified employment positions.

The employment education and training project has set a target to have

30 trainees and 30 jobs by the year 2003.

There are currently

3 students on traineeships, working 2 days per week and engaging in post-compulsory

studies. The principal of post compulsory studies (based at the school)

is concerned for the funding of the program since the various government

departments measure success in terms of numbers.

Wulungarra Community


The Wulungarra School

has 30 students though the numbers can fluctuate when the families are

away from the camp. The school is situated at Kadjina. There is one teacher

at the school and she is also the principal. She is the only English speaker

in the community. The Kadjina community is 4-5 hours by road from Fitzroy

Crossing. During the wet season the road is unusable.

"Wulungarra Community

School obtains funding from the Isolated Children Education Program, directly

from the Commonwealth. We are an independent school so most of our money

comes directly from DETYA. We have been able to develop materials with

the children in their languages as well as English. This means that the

students are very aware of what is Kriol, what is Walmajarri and what

is English."

"The two resources

Felix and Making the Jump brought out by the Catholic Education Office

have made a huge change to the ways in which teachers perceive Kriol and

other Aboriginal languages. At the Wulungarra Community School we have

found the CD-Rom Learning Walmajarri also from Catholic Education to be

an excellent resource. This language is documented now, so it makes it

easier to teach."

"Education is not

an entity unto itself, it sits in a broad context. At Wulungarra we have

had road access for only 2 weeks this year. At one point our community

ran out of food and this was at a time when our airstrip was not operational.

The only food that we had was lentils. We have had power and water problems.

We do our best to teach but there are difficulties with essential services.

Sometimes you can have committed staff and good programs but other factors

can intervene. These factors can really compromise the community's health

and viability."

"There is a community

about half an hour away from Wulungarra called Nullabida or Kullabi and

it has no educational offerings for the children. When families from these

communities are visiting Wulungarra the numbers of school students can

double. In the 6 years that I have been around I have observed that there

are numbers of children from these communities and others who have no

access to education."

"They approached

(Ms) Yangkana Laurel last year and we have had a few meetings with them,

but there are problems with transport and no one is taking responsibility

for this problem. The children sometimes come to us and sometimes they

go to another school. If this was a group of 20 white middle class children

this lack of educational access would never happen. We have approached

the Transport Authority but apparently they have out-sourced all this

sort of travel. Therefore it is not going to be a financially viable enterprise

for a private company to bus children from Ngalapita to Wulungarra School

every day. We haven't come to a satisfactory arrangement yet."

"The other problem

for us is that our funding is linked to the census numbers and I think

there is an assumption that if children are not at school on a certain

day that they are at another school. This is not the case. There are large

numbers of students who are not accessing any education. This would be

the situation for lots of remote communities around Fitzroy."

"Isolation is another

problem for us. In order to come to this meeting we had to fly here. If

we have a broken tap we have to fly somebody out. All of this costs money

and constitutes a huge amount of our expenses. So even though Fitzroy

Crossing is considered to be a remote school and does have issues that

no city school would have, there are also differences in remoteness between

Fitzroy and a community like us."

Walkajungka School

Walkajungka School

is situated outside Fitzroy Crossing. It has 6 non-Aboriginal teachers

and 5 Aboriginal & Islander Education Workers. There are 80 to 100 kids

at the school. The school caters for children from primary through until

Year 10 secondary school. The school has a language program of English,

Walmajarri and Walkajungka.

Some children come

to school from stations outside of the communities. The children who travel

the furthest spend about 1 to 1 hours each day on the school bus.

Most children leave

school before Year 10. The boys leave school early and are very unlikely

to continue beyond Year 9.

Early childhood

Family and Community

Services WA is establishing a childcare centre in Fitzroy Crossing. There

are 20 4-year-olds on the books at the moment with 15 children in regular



updated 2 December 2001.