Thank you for the 2020 educational highlights package in the NT News (28/12). The resilience, resourcefulness, creativity and coping strategies developed and practised by school staff and students in countering this most challenging of years deserves high praise. One can but hope that 2021 will be a less challenging educational year.


The year in education has been an Australian and indeed a worldwide educational year with significant difference to those of the past two or three decades. Students, staff, schools and their communities have had to cope with forced change like never before.

Some have coped better than others, but fir all there was a significance that made this year one that stood out. Foe the most part, the standing out was for all

the wrong environmental reasons.

Well done on coming through and all the best for 2021.



It is a crying shame that universities are prepared to lower entry standards into courses for domestic students, in order to fill quotas (Sunday Territorian 27/12).

The lowering of entry requirements promotes mediocrity and sends a message that effort to attain a high ATAR entry score doesn’t really matter. I shudder to think that our tertiary institutions should endorse such a slack, lowering of standards attitude.


There was a time when those studying for tertiary qualifications earned failing grades for below standard work. That seems to be no longer the case.

University staff bend over backwards to ensure students, ALL students it seems, pass units and graduate from degree courses.

One has to ask if this move toward mediocrity is wise or whether it is a course of action that is followed because universities have become businesses wanting money from students and therefore have a lesser concern about the quality of person they graduate.

All rather alarming I think.


Christmas Day and the festive season offer us the chance to reflect on the year that has been and to contemplate the one that will be unfolding in a few days time.

Those who are young have few Christmas periods upon which to reflect. If all goes well, their futuristic ends-of-years will extend far into the future.

Those who have reached their middle years have the advantage of both looking back and forward in a context of where there is the offer of both reflective history and quite long term futurist anticipation.

For those of us who are chronologically enhanced (advanced) Christmas reflections go a long way back with an ever decreasing time left to anticipate.

However it is, may this Christmas be good for us all.



Once a week there was a round robin flight from Darwin to Darwin flown by Connair that included every port on the Arnhem circuit . Included in this once weekly flight was Borroloola and also Numbulwar. The route was from Borroloola to Numbulwar.

There was some capital works needing to be done at Numbulwar. We were expecting two tradesmen on that flight. The plane arrived, but not the tradesmen.

A follow-up telegram revealed that the two men had gotten off the plane at Borroloola, thinking Borroloola was Numbulwar. They did not discover their mistake until the plane had left.

The following week, the tradesmen arrived in Numbulwar. Seemingly they found the fishing in the intervening week to be both relaxing and rewarding!! How they justified that to the boss of the company, I am not sure.

When out in communities one could never be sure if the plane was going to be on time or whether it was going to be delayed. The one thing you could generally be sure about was it if the plane was due to arrive on a particular day, it would arrive on that day. Occasionally there was a blip in that regard but not too frequently.

An issue at times was the worry people had if they were using Connair to get to Darwin, Katherine, Groote Eylandt or Nhulunbuy in order to connect with another plane. For the most part however things did work and pretty reasonably.

Connair was an important and vital lifeline for us during years of poor (if any) outback road connection and during years preceeding telephone and internet connections that these days keep people linked.


Connellan Airways (Connair) was all about outback communications, transport and indeed lifeblood. We flew Connair from 1975 until going to Groote (and Ansett) from the beginning of 1979.

Who can ever forget flying in DC3’s and four engine Herons en route to and from Darwin and outback posts in Arnhemland. There was pilot Washington and chief air hostess Dorothy and many others who contributed to maintaining the lifeblood that was about ensuring regular passenger routes were serviced year around.

One of my memories (and I have it on film) was that of Numbulwar students being loaded for a flight to Groote Eylandt by DC3 to represent our community at the Gulf School Sports in 1976.

Then there was a teacher who turned up to catch Connair at the end of the school holidays. She left a luggage locked in at the Young Women’s Christian Association Darwin and couldn’t get it out before plane time. No matter, she had a wire door for the house in which she lived that she wanted to take back to Numbulwar. They’re insured are quite animated conversation between the chicken staff and the teacher because she wasn’t allowed to take the wire door on the plane. It was a Heron flying that day and the small plane would not accomodate the wire door; it would have to await the next time a DC3 was flying the route.

Then there was the time a Heron en route around Arnhemland airstrips tipped up on its tail at Roper River (Ngukurr). That was due to a heavy freight load with the plane tipping because of weight transference as passengers alighted. The plane was righted, a couple of fuselage cracks taped and the plane passengers carefully reboarded before the plane took off.

Connair is long gone, but memories are forever and live on.


It is disappointing (NT News 16/12) that so many of our top NTCET graduates are looking to interstate tertiary study, while the CDU prefers to focus on overseas student intakes.

It is both sad and alarming that our local University appears to put so little stock in the tertiary needs of our own (Territory) secondary school graduates.


The 2020 school year ended for urban students yesterday and finishes for remote area students and staff today. All staff deserve appreciation and thanks for the way they have worked hard and given so much to support the children in our schools this year. Our students also deserve plaudits for their resolve and perseverance with study during months of uncertainty.

May our educators and students together with their families have an outstanding Christmas and New Year. And may the 2021 school year be one in which predictability and certainty are restored.



How good it would be if I could ever have a conversation with the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs on matters to do with Indigenous Education. That of course will never happen because the way things were managed and met in past times, together with strategies that were tried and which worked are of no interest to present leaders.

It is little wonder that in so many ways we get stuck

on Genesis 1: 1.

The shame of turning away from the history of Indigenous education is that there were many things done that were good in terms of both approach and outcome. Peer mentoring is a strategy that could have been employed but never has been used. Sadly, remote education goes around in circles, gaining little ground. And that is both a terrible shame and a sad waste of human and material resources.


I am an enthusiastic supporter and appreciator of ‘wannabes’ who teach but not so much a supporter of ‘gotta bees’, particularly if they think the system and schools owe them.

I am a keen supporter of teachers who are givers, but not those who are takers.


All the very best to our students, teachers and schools for the last weeks of the school year. While 2020 has been difficult, those associated with education deserve recognition for their positivity and unswerving commitment to making the very best of possibly the most challenging educational year we have ever experienced. I hope you find much to celebrate in the days leading to the end of the term.



Prior to and after retirement I worked as an educator with international students undertaking teacher training at the Charles Darwin University in Darwin. A part of my brief was to observe and advise students who were on practice teaching assignments.

I also worked with students on issues of language and communication with children in classrooms. This included control and management issues.

During those years I put together a lot of teaching tips on language skills and communication methodology to support students.

The material developed is still highly relevant and I am happy to share it with anyone who might benefit from it’s use. These materials will be provided at no cost to those who might fjnd them of use.

Simply email me at to make contact.

I was much helped and supported by others when making my way as an educator and consider it my turn to share.

I also have a blog at

with content on education that is entirely free to anyone who wants to use what has been written.

There are over 700 entries on my blog. They are archived by the month, in descending order from last to first month.

Please feel free to visit and use what is written. People are welcome to copy and use as they like.


A number of remote communities in East Arnhem are losing their funding for the provision of after school hours care programs.

Some disappointment has been expressed at the curtailment of services, but the change is totally understandable. These programs are only relevant if children attend school. Chronic non- attendance and truancy make the provision of such services totally farcical.


Denise Cahill ( A lesson on how not to be a leader, Sun. Territorian 25/10) makes some salient points on what elevates and deflates leaders in the eyes of beholders.

The power of personal example is ever so important bin determined respect held for leaders. Good leaders are also people who learn about how to lead, by learning (often from observation) about what not to do as a leader. Leadership based on respect cannot be transcended.