and Remote Education - WA
Public meeting in Halls Creek
- 18 May 1999
Halls Creek is located
in the Kimberley region on the Great Northern Highway that links Wyndham
and Broome. The population of Halls Creek fluctuates around 3,200 people
and 80% of the people living in Halls Creek are Aboriginal. The indigenous
languages spoken in the Halls Creek area are Jaru, Kija and Kriol.
Education is a very
important issue for the residents of Halls Creek. They have one pre-school,
one primary school, one secondary school and a TAFE. Halls Creek also
has a Language Centre. These education resources provide for the 3,200
people living in Halls Creek.
"The children here
have a positive attitude to preschool but they are not keen to go to school.
When you talk to them about school they say that they want to stay in
preschool. At preschool the children felt that they had more attention
from the preschool teachers."
"The children only
go to preschool for 4 days per week."
for only a half day and then the children go on to childcare for the rest
of the day."
"They have the language
nests for the children under pre primary and that has worked really well.
They learn Kija. The elders take the kids away and they go out in a language
emersion situation. It has worked particularly well in Fitzroy Crossing.
This is of huge benefit to both the children and the old people."
"The skill of teaching
for remote Aboriginal children in particular is an extension of a family
activity where they are traditionally taught by the elders with a very
strong cultural program. I think this is where a lot of the plot is being
missed here. The children here still expect to be taught by an elder or
some perception of an elder."
"In the remote schools
the teachers are generally given a skin name so that the students can
respond to them by their skin group rather than their Kardia name. I think
that helps in the process and the Teacher's Aid assists in this process
so that the children can respond to the teacher as an elder. When the
kids have come here from remote communities they feel a bit lost because
they are torn between the traditional ways and the ways of the town here."
"Many of the teachers
who come here are not culturally appropriate. They are not sensitive to
the ways in which the kids learn or their parents learnt. I guess many
of the parents have not come to grips with the ways that kids are taught
here either. It makes it a bit easier if you work with new teachers. One
of the best ways to develop cultural appropriateness is to work in an
accompaniment mode with the elders. There is a very good package available
that describes this process. It includes doing things like 'Tour-Guiding'
which involves the elders of each community becoming the teachers on the
program. We just accompany that learning in the traditional mode of teaching."
"The emphasis is
on teaching in a culturally appropriate manner. The teacher should hang
back and let the older ways of learning take precedence so that learning
is an extension of the daily life. This might address some of the truancy
and attendance issues."
"The elders are dying
out and the traditional ways are going. We have set up language nests
with the younger children. These have worked well. The success of these
programs relies on the ways in which the elders are approached and how
they are paid to work in the school. The old people do want to become
more involved in the school. They like to see the ways in which they can
affect change. Just remember that the elders have been here longer than
any principal and they have seen so many teachers come and go over the
"One of the real
successes at Turkey Creek has been the fact that our teachers have been
there for quite a while. I think the tendency in the Kimberley is a 2
year turnover of teachers. We have had the teachers longer than that so
that we are very lucky."
"It would be terrific
if there could be classes for travelling children so that they could access
schooling for 2 weeks while they are in a particular community. That means
that this mobile group could have access to education while the family
is on the move. With the Catholic Education mod they will enrol kids who
are travelling. Other schools don't do it because they are not funded
for the kids."
"With the Year 3
literacy testing in the schools the Kimberley schools were the worst in
the State. There were very few kids here who passed. Now why is that?
What is wrong with the schooling system here? The standards of schooling
is just not good enough here."
"When the children
are in primary school they are not achieving the levels that they need.
They also don't have the fine motor skills and the fine motor coordination.
They go to secondary school and they don't have the skills, they have
to go back to primary school work. This is another problem to add to their
reading and writing problems. A lot of the behaviour problems in the school
are about avoiding. They know they can't do it so then they don't want
to do it. I know that the self-esteem of a lot of these kids would improve
if they could improve their literacy skills.
"We need also to
bring back respect in the community. We need to build respect between
the kids and the teachers; the kids and all the older people in the community.
The kids just don't respect older people here and they are missing out.
I'm not sure how to fix it, perhaps involve the elders, I don't know."
Disability and support
"We have a psychologist
who comes here once every three weeks. Yet a lot of these kids are getting
through the system and they are not picked up by the teachers or the psychologist.
When kids have a learning problem but not a behavioural problem they are
not referred to the psychologist and they drop through the system. The
teachers aren't aware of the signs and what to pick up. If we could identify
the problems then we could build the self esteem of the children. Our
psychologist comes from Kununurra and she does not have enough time to
follow up the kids. She covers 51 schools. This is not just a rural problem
it is a State-wide problem Metropolitan schools have the same problems
with access to psychologists."
"We are interested
in the stuff that they are doing in the Territory. We are exploring also
flexible delivery programs as well. This is a trial that we are considering
which includes the modes and means through picture-tell share vision;
video conferencing; mix and match correspondence programs and some school
of the air programs to increase the range of courses that we can cover.
I imagine though that there will be problems that will come up in the
evaluation and this will include problems with the infrastructure, with
the ISTN links there will be language difficulties and also information
that says what works at Balgo may not work at Turkey Creek or Nukanbah.
After that, the College will have to write specific materials relevant
to the particular communities. We will end up writing comics and videos."
"The TAFE here is
supposed to deliver to 60 odd communities with 4 lecturers, 3 Toyotas
and a piece of string. We try to focus on short sharp programs. This is
because community life is complex and there is always a funeral or a football
match or the alcohol has hit the town. This means that I could send a
lecturer 360 kilometres to find that the community has left town or that
training is not possible. A lot of the training here is 'Entertrainment'
rather than real training."
"It works well when
students are placed somewhere like the hospital so that the children can
see the kind of work that we do and then perhaps think about work after
school. The children need experiences of work to know what to expect."
"We have 2 streams
of schooling here. We have Mainstream and Generalist studies. This differs
from Perth. If our children were in Perth they would do mainstream studies
and they would get additional tuition if they had difficulties. With Generalist
studies the children are put 2 years behind. They need to do the 2 years
of Generalist before they can go on to Year 8."
"We do not have a
truant officer here. We have one truant officer who comes for 1 to 2 weeks
from Broome each year. We do not have an Aboriginal Community Liaison
Officer at the school. We have wardens and Teachers Assistance who do
go out and pick up the kids, but this is a hard issue to deal with because
you cut across families and cause conflict in the community."
"Students who are
continually absent need specialist programs and this is a lot of work
for the teachers. The students might only come back to school for 1 or
"One of the reasons
why the kids don't go to school is because there is a lot of teasing and
bullying. They think too that the teachers aren't fair in the classroom.
If a child is picked on by a teacher, then the family will say well why
is there a point to letting my kids go to school. I send my children to
school to be educated, not to be teased and bullied and sworn at. It seems
that the teachers only notice if the students are not doing the work,
but they don't care about the things that might be happening to the children
at the school."
"One of the reasons
why the kids do not feel safe at school and they don't tell the teachers
about bullying is because the child might only have to sit on a bench
for five minutes, but the kids don't consider this to be punishment."
"One of the things
that we might do is to say that if the kids have a poor attendance record
then they can't be involved in recreation programs." "Some kids have been
put on a curfew at night because of breaking or entering but you still
see them in the streets at night."
"We are also finding
that when the school teachers are having a problem at school or in the
playground, they tend to call the police to get them to sort the kids
out." When children turn up to the recreation centre when they are supposed
to be at school, then again the police are called."
"There is also the
problem of new teachers who have difficulties in understanding the children."
Where there is high truancy you usually find low morale amongst the teachers."
"Next year in WA
Non Government schools who want to access distance education will have
to pay $900 per unit. This effectively means that the Distance Education
is not viable."
"It is very difficult
for students who have travelled from a community like this to Perth for
schooling. It is a real culture shock. I think it is better to send the
kids at Year 8 rather than Year 10. I didn't know what an assignment was
when I went to Perth and I had never had homework before."
"There have been
a number of students who have gone to Perth recently, but they have all
come back. They go without family support and the homesickness sets in
really quickly. Even when the students go to Broome for 2 weeks the students
will get homesick very quickly."
"When all the kids
have ever seen is life in this community, they get a shock in the city.
They don't know some of the most basic things about the big cities. Certainly,
the kids need information before they can even think about going to somewhere
"Unless someone is
going to raise the money to send kids on an excursion those kids are going
to be here. If you said there was going to be an excursion and it would
cost $150.00 nobody would go, they just wouldn't have the money."
"There is no interschool
competition here no interschool sports. There is nothing up here for the
kids, absolutely nothing."
"When I went to Perth
the one thing that I really missed was my language and my culture. They
only teach language here until Grade 3 or 4 but I think it should go right
through the school to High School. There are a few elders at the school
now and they are really involved."
"One of the problems
with language learning in this State is that there is only one person
employed to manage all of the language programs in this State. Only one
person is available for an 8000 language speaking community. In the Catholic
system they employ a teacher/linguist to provide the support for the language
teachers. This is not so in the government system."
"The classroom teachers
provide a little bit of support to the language teachers on top of the
rest of their load. The elders need structured support though. Going into
a classroom is difficult for traditional people who are not used to being
in the classroom; it is not their natural environment. Nobody would expect
these old ladies to take the classes of kids. It is not as though they
could go into a classroom and teach 30 children. The elders are eager
to teach the language but they need support and they need literacy support."
"As we move toward
the year 2000 we will have the introduction of LOTE (Languages Other Than
English). The government school policy on LOTE is that they will get a
language teacher and pay them $60,000 to teach in rural and remote communities.
If however, that language is an indigenous language then the local language
centre can run that, the community can pay for that themselves. Local
language is not happening in the government schools. The government has
put no resources into it. They think that the old people can come in and
teach the children, and if it doesn't work, oh well, we can blame the
"The government must
put in a facilitating person to assist in the teaching of indigenous languages
in the school. Currently, the old women come in and teach Grade 1 and
Grade 3 for half an hour a week. Language is taught so little. Language
is not in pre-primary."
"There are no learning
outcomes that are linked to indigenous languages"
"The kids feel so
proud to learn their own language."
"We don't have computers
here. My son is in Year 10 and he does not have a computer in his classroom.
These kids don't have access to the Internet. I think there is just one
computer in the school with access to the Internet. There is a computer
room, but if these classrooms were in Perth the kids would have a computer
in every room."
"We did some fund-raising
to get computers into the school but we ended up getting someone's old
stock so that the kids were behind before they started."
"There is an issue
with the cabling and the ISDN link here. In the desert you can get excellent
ISDN links but if you go the other way to Wyndham and Kalumburu then you
have problems there. There is infrastructure here to support Information
Technology in the desert."
"Only 2 of my children
out of 8 were eligible for Abstudy because my husband and I both work.
To me it seemed unfair that some of my kids got Abstudy and the others
didn't." "My older son wanted to go to TAFE after he had finished school
but he was told that the Department would have to assess his parent's
income and so he became dispirited and he left town. He is not studying
now and he lives in Derby."
come out to the desert communities on a rural package and have a house
provided for them and a $60,000 income while TAFE teachers do not have
any of the same entitlements and they earn $40,00 per year. The school
teachers also get cultural awareness training." "Teachers are considered
remote while health and TAFE workers are not considered to be remote.
We are classed as rural isolated."
"The big packages
for teachers do not necessarily equate to teachers staying in the communities
for the long term. There are many variables as to why some teachers stay
and others don't. Though in the end, the additional salary does not equate
to increased teacher retention and happiness in the community."
"We have full participation
of boys and girls in sport. All children are involved. The only problem
that we have is with discipline. There is a lot of teasing and bickering
and arguments. Within small controlled group the children get on well,
but where there are not enough adults to officiate then the bickering
starts. We would like to offer more creative arts. That is somewhere down
"The age groups vary.
We either take the children at all ages or we do not take them at all.
Children arrive with younger brothers and sisters. We really take the
children from 8 to 18. We are funded by the Ministry of Justice. We have
holiday programs where we get up to 70 children per day."
"The climate affects
the ways in which the kids access recreation. It is too hot for them to
participate after school, but between 5 to 9pm we have many children."
Technical and Further
"TAFE's biggest customers
are students who have left school early. The majority of these early leavers
are Aboriginal students."
"The main problem
that we have is delivering programs that have an achievable outcome for
the students. We want to avoid training for the sake of training. The
students here have a huge deficiency in literacy standards. The main problem
that we find is that the students can't meet the minimum entry requirements
in order to access accredited training."
"The other problem
that we have is linking the training to employment options, and the employment
options are very limited in the remote regions."
are very difficult to sell to students. The outcomes are not there, particularly
for students who have left secondary school."
"The other difficulty
that we have is that our courses cost the students, the individual, so
we tend to target organisations that can pay fees, otherwise we are stuck
running short courses. We will be trying to develop the literacy program
a lot more in the next few years."
"The majority of
teaching in TAFE is done off campus on communities."
"Unless there is
a Community Development program behind these training then they often
don't succeed. When you have funding for housing in remote areas we run
pre-employment programs so that they boys and young men can be trained
up in the use of hand and power tools before the work begins and the contractors
come in. At least also when the contractors have gone there is a maintenance
team in place after the housing development has gone through."
"This is similar
with horticulture. These workers are semi-skilled though. They are not
skilled to the level of apprenticeship training and this comes back to
the level of literacy and numeracy. They can't reach the literacy and
numeracy standards. That is the challenge for us."
"There are a few
apprenticeships available from Argyle. They are available through the
Good Neighbour policy that was extended from Argyle. I'm not sure whether
the workers got a ticket out of it though. They are now starting to downsize
Argyle so I'm not sure whether this program still runs."
"There is very little
on-site training for students post secondary in Turkey Creek."
"There is a lack
of working role models for these kids. The kids say, 'what am I going
to do with this training', and really if there is no opportunity for realistic
employment then what are these kids going to do."
In April of 1999,
the Halls Creek Failure to Thrive Committee prepared a report on Child
Malnutrition in Halls Creek Shire. This report found a high prevalence
of child malnutrition, comparable with developing countries. According
to World Health Organisation criteria, 40% of children in the Halls Creek
Shire were 'moderately to severely malnourished.'
The report outlines
further health variables and their impact on the learning of the children
in this region.
a large body of knowledge that links malnutrition to behavioural disturbances,
learning difficulties and poor educational achievement. Recent evidence
suggests that perinatal deficiency of fatty acids and iron deficiency
in infancy can permanently impair mental function through inhibition of
normal brain development. Deficiency of other specific vitamins and trace
elements is associated with a variety of cognitive and developmental deficits."1
"The main problems
with children here are ear problems. With the little kids there are perforated
eardrums. These problems are not corrected and so the children develop
hearing problems. The ear specialist comes 3 times per year and can make
only 12 appointments. We could see 12 children per day and still not see
all of the children who need treatment. All of these children really need
referral. If we had a lot more services then the hearing problems would
decrease, the children would hear better and get a better education."
"75%-80% of children
here have ear problems. These kids need operations and these operations
are semi urgent to urgent. The waiting list for ENT is about 6 months.
Unless you have private cover and you can go to Perth then you wait about
12 months. This problem begins from pre-primary through to secondary education.
You can see teachers talking behind kids and it is so clear that the kids
haven't heard the teacher. Their hearing is just so poor."
have been cut back here over the past three years. We used to have the
orthopaedic specialist for one day once every three months, now we only
get half a day. A lot of the referrals are therefore not able to be followed
"Using the optometrist
is also difficult. People from Billiluna have to make their way to Halls
Creek and then on to Kununurra. This is very difficult for the people
in desert communities."
"My nephew was too
shy to tell the teacher that he couldn't see the blackboard. This boy
was 14 but he still hadn't learned to read."
"There is screening
for hearing and vision at the school but the children are only screened
if they are in the school at the time when the community health service
are in the school."
"Food costs are one
thing that we have to take into consideration here. Food is astronomical
here compared to the rest of the Kimberley. Sometimes the family will
spend all of the household money on alcohol so there will be no food in
the house and the kids will be on the streets looking for food. This adds
to truancy and literacy problems. The kids can't learn if they spend the
nights on the streets looking for food. They are often roaming the streets
until 2 and 3 in the morning."
"We also have quite
a few kids here who are under the one third percentile in terms of their
weight. This is linked to the 'Failure to Thrive'. We hope to run a breakfast
program here and to get funding through the school. It hasn't started
yet. We have also thought about running an evening meal program too. If
we can get the food into the kids then they will be able to turn up to
school. If the children can get an education then perhaps they will be
able to see the other side of life in contrast to the lives that they
are living now. This is a big issue up here."
"There are a lot
of people here who do not have power and they have sewerage problems and
the toilets are overflowing, and when you ask for maintenance but nothing
is done. Children do not have access to a hot shower. They are often dirty
and hungry and tired. Some go to school and sleep. They might be marked
present at school but they might sleep for the whole day."
"I had a meeting
at the school recently and one of the big issues raised was a lack of
communication between the school and the community. They suggested that
they should have a full-time counsellor at the school so that the children
could talk about their problems, especially about the violence in their
"I am part of a community
and I see the violence and abuse in the community. The kids will then
muck up at school and the teachers don't know where the kids are coming
from. One kid can throw the whole class out. We need better communication
between the community and the school."
"Why should they
(the school children) do anything when all they see all day is fighting
and people drunk all the time."
Creek Failure to Thrive Committee 1999, Child Malnutrition in the Halls
Creek Shire, A summary of local issues, Halls Creek.
updated 2 December 2001.