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Rural and Remote Education - WA


and Remote Education - WA

Meeting with Aboriginal women,

17 May 1999 - notes


Aboriginal women

from the local community, Inquiry Co-Commissioner Sister Pat Rhatigan,

Julie Sutherland (Gawooleng Yawoodeng Aboriginal Corporation), Susan Newell


There are three schools

in Kununurra: St Joseph's (Catholic primary school), Kununurra District

High School (Years P-12) and the Barramundi School which provides alternative

schooling for secondary school students. Most of the women at the meeting

had children who had attended St Joseph's.

Issues raised

  • Homework
  • Lunches
  • Bus transport
  • Language/culture
  • Preschool
  • High school
  • Curriculum
  • Employment and

    further education

  • Aboriginal involvement

    in school


Women are positive

about the after-school homework class at St Joseph's, where children are

divided into groups and can complete their homework before going home.

They said the state school does not have homework classes.


Children are given

lunch money by their mothers. They thought that children should get a

more substantial lunch at St Joseph's rather than just sandwiches and

fruit as part of the ASSPA [Aboriginal Student Support and Parent Awareness

Committee] funded lunch program. One woman said that she has seen a lot

of children at the state school who do not have enough money for lunch

or even for pens.

Bus transport

The children get

picked up every day by the school bus. If they are not going to school

that day, the mothers let St Joseph's know. There is also another bus

which is used for night patrol which also picks up kids to and from school.

It is difficult to get bus drivers.


Children have lost

their language. They do not learn language at school. The women would

like their children to learn Miriwoong. It was good that boys and girls

were taught separately at the Barramundi School, and that teachers only

taught children of their own sex, because it was the proper way in their



The women would like

preschool classes at St Joseph's. There is an occasional care centre in

Kununurra that children can go to, but it only has 10 places and has limited


High school

Some women said they

did not like the state school because the children are not happy there.

They said that the teachers split the children up so that they are not

with their friends.

The women are worried

that children who go to from St Joseph's to the state school for secondary

schooling do not stay at school, and then cannot get a job. It is difficult

to enforce attendance. Many parents gamble and drink. Some parents do

not support the children to go to school. There has been talk about establishing

a 'Boot Camp' near the Lakeside to teach boys the value of work.

The women want a

Catholic secondary school so that their children can continue at the same

school with their friends.

There are examples

of children who do stay at school until the end of secondary school.

Some women are critical

of some aspects of the Barramundi school. They are concerned that they

do not teach enough maths and spelling, which they think is necessary

for the children to find employment later. They think the classrooms at

Barramundi are too small, and they need a bigger space.

Some children are

also sent away to boarding school, but they come back after a year or

so and then are neither employed nor at school.


The women want the

children to learn skills that they could use in employment. For example,

spelling, reading, maths, gardening, making clothes, and how to work in

shops. They said that when they were at school they worked at picking

cotton or baking bread.

Employment and further


The types of jobs

the women would like to see their children doing were in jobs such as

farming, mechanics, shops, plumbing and tourism. However, there are only

a few Aboriginal people in mainstream employment in Kununurra.

The women did not

know anyone who went to TAFE. They said the young people were too shy

to go - they need to know someone there to feel comfortable. Some Aboriginal

people do work at TAFE.

Aboriginal involvement

in school

Some of the women

go to St Joseph's and participate in NAIDOC activities but there are no

people from Mirama teaching there. They would like another four more Aboriginal

teachers at the state school. One woman assists with NAIDOC and with craft

at the school.

One woman raised

a concern that ASSPA funds at the state school had been spent on musical

instruments, but then the instruments seem to have disappeared. None of

the women present went to the ASSPA at the state school. However, some

of them participate in the ASSPA meetings at St Josephs.

Special needs

Some children are

slow learners and some have bad ear problems. There is a deaf child at

the state school and one at St Joseph's.


updated 2 December 2001.