and Remote Education - WA
Meeting with Aboriginal women,
17 May 1999 - notes
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.
- Bus transport
- High school
- Employment and
- Aboriginal involvement
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.
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
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.
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.
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.