“What was” transcends “what is.”

Victoria Laurie’s front page story commenting on Groote Eylandt (A new goal for island’s ‘ghost generation’ in Weekend Australian, May 15 – 16) filled me with sadness. The notion that the Eylandt’s youthful cohort are confronted by a sense of nothingness because they are not educationally ready to control their situation is extremely disappointing. Ms Laurie writes that in taking over responsibilities for management as the mining industry withdraws, the community faces an alarming skills shortage. “Finding skilled manpower … is daunting on an island where youngsters – dubbed the “ghost generation” – grew up dodging school.” She laments school attendance in order of 25%.

I was principal of Angurugu School, in the larger of the two indigenous communities, from 1979 – 1982. During those four years, by negotiation with the community and supported by two community council paid liaison officers, our school attendance never slipped below 75%. The secondary (post primary) program focused on work experience and trainee link programs. Vocational education and technical educational needs were met. The link program offered three days of paid employment and two days of TAFE education to participants each week. The educational program provided for training needs identified in the workplace.

Our primary school programs were also fully supported by school attendance.

I can’t vouch for occupational readiness of young people in 2021, but can confirm that fulfilling education and future employment needs were being met 39 years ago

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