OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PASTWarburton Ranges (WA) in 1974-75 (17)

There were significant changes to the way Warburton operated in 1974 compared to 1971. An incorporated office had been established to run the administrative business of the community. This included an office, together with banking facilities which had (1970) been managed through the mission store. The store was under community control with Warburton being managed by a large consultancy group, WD Scott and Associates headquartered in Perth. A community adviser appointed by Scotts was the person on the ground who was technically responsible for the day to day management of the community.

Mail connections with the outside world were still irregular. There was no regular mail service, especially for outbound mail as there was no regular air service from Kalgoorlie to Warburton. VJY (still controlled by Health Department) was still the only way of communicating- by transceiver/receiver, with all communications being public to those tuned in at particular times. Charter planes bringing government personnel into the community were not infrequent, but they they did not have a fixed schedule. It may have been for this reason that the preferred method of contact from WD Scott’s head office in Perth with the community adviser was by cassette tape.

The Community Welfare Department was represented by an officer who did not have affiliation with the mission. He was responsibility for overnighting Warburton, the Ngaanyatjarra area and a quite large section of the Pitjantjatjara Lands reaching north east to Giles and east toward the Blackstone and Peterman Ranges. The community also had liaison with Docker River just over the border in the Northern Territory.

From a school viewpoint, we had our own generator which powered our school and the residences. This was particularly handy on the home front, because the price of gas was still astronomical, a cylinder of gas costing the better part of a week’s wage. We had no air conditioning and no heating capacity for the dry, cold winter months. The community was also serviced by a bigger generator which ran far more uninterruptedly than had been the case four years earlier. It had been relocated to a point just beyond the immediate community.

Three out four new and quite elaborate (by outback standards) homes had been built on the southern aspect of the community. These were for some of the staff employed under the application of revamped management. The locals lived as they had in 1970. Nothing had changed in that regard.

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