and Remote Education - WA
Fitzroy Crossing community
meeting, 19 May 1999 - notes
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
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."
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."
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."
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."
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
"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."
"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.
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
"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."
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
"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."
"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."
"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."
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.
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.
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
"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
"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."
(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."
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.
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.