REMOTE EDUCATION : BIG CHANGES OVER TIME

CHANGED CONDITIONS

I was a remote area teacher in WA in 1970 then again in 1974-75. Both periods were at Warburton Ranges in far eastern WA.

Our remote service in the Northern Territory was from July 1975 until December 1986. Included were appointments to Numbulwar, Angurugu on Groote Eylandt and Nhulunbuy.

I am going to write a little of my experiences and memories during those periods. Variations in living and working in those places during those years is in sharp contrast to education in 2021.

OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST

Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1970 (1)

In the early 1970s (1970, 1974-75) I was teaching at Warburton Ranges in W.A. Laverton, our nearest town was We had no regular mail service. A mail truck came in once every six weeks. Outbound mail went to Kalgoorlie with anybody if you happen to be travelling in that direction.

Warburton is 552 kilometres from the small town of Laverton (8.5 hours by road in 2021). Kalgoorlie, the nearest service centre is 892 kilometres (close to 12 hours in 2021) away. In the 1970’s, with the road to Laverton from Warburton largely unmaintained, and in essence a ‘track’, that leg of the trip took far longer.

There were no phones, very limited radio reception, and most certainly no other connection with the outside world other than VJY radio.

VJY radio was controlled by the mission (1970) and the Department of Health (1974). This mode of communication is not private, not even for telegram transmission. Everything was public.

In 1970, the United Aborigines Mission (UAM) which administered Warburton had a generally sturdy and reliable truck, an Atkinson, which ran a shuttle supply and mail service between Warburton to Kalgoorlie and return. When the trucks was due, children and people would begin to look anxiously west. There was a high point on the track, a ‘jump up’ at about 40 kilometres from Warburton. In clear and still conditions, dust raised by the Atkinson could be spotted.

Children would start to get excited, with that excitement rising to a crescendo when the truck hove into view after crossing Elder Creek four kilometres to the west of the town. It would pull up in the town centre, opposite the store, its yellow paintwork and tarpaulin covered load covered in outback track redness and dripping with fine dust.

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