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Rural and Remote Education - WA


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."

"Kindergarten is

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."

Teaching Methodology

"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

2 days."

"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."

Distance education

"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."

Boarding school

"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

like Perth."


"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."

Information Technology

"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."

Pay equity

"School teachers

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 track."

"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."

"Catch-up programs

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.

"There is

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."

"Specialist services

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."

Domestic violence

"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."


1 Halls

Creek Failure to Thrive Committee 1999, Child Malnutrition in the Halls

Creek Shire, A summary of local issues, Halls Creek.


updated 2 December 2001.