OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1974-75 (19)

While educators, we were very concerned about the general health and welfare of the children at Warburton. To that end, we engaged with the children in a number of ways to try and enhance issues of general well-being. From the beginning of the 1974 school year, we decided to encourage children, as they came from their camps each morning to shower in the community ablutions blocks. In 1974, the galvanised female and male blocks were separated by partitioning and were quite private. The showers, a community facility, were rarely used, largely because the only showering option was cold water.

The ablutions block had donkey boilers attached but these had to be serviced.

Donkey boilers were 44 gallon (120 litre) drums hooked up with water inlets and outlets as befitting traditional wood burning bath heaters. In order to facilitate the showering program, I used to go down each morning and light fires under the boilers. Wood was supplied by the community and I did the rest.

We supervised the showering programs, supplying detergent for each child. Towels were communal and supplied clean each morning by the Health Department staff. After use, they were collected, washed, dried and readied for use the next day.

This service was provided for most of the 1974 school year from Monday’s to Friday’s.

We oversaw some other aspects of health care for children. From time to time we organised haircuts for students in order to assist with health care. We also organised for children suffering from weeping ears and scabies to go to the health clinic for treatment. Weeping ears were often accentuated and made worse because flies were attracted by the condition. Dead flies were often removed from children’s ears at the health centre. On one occasion, nine flies were removed from one ear and eleven from the other ear of an afflicted child.

These conditions were worse after weekends and holidays because during the school week, staff kept a regular and supportive check on students.

The Education Department supplied vitamin and mineral enriched biscuits for students. They were a small supplement we added to their diet, distributing them at school. Cartons of canned Carnation milk were sent, to be made up and distributed at school.

A midday meal and afternoon tea were supplied to children by the community this being part of the government funded support program – as had been the case when we first went to Warburton in 1970.

Afternoon tea was a sandwich and a piece of fruit. On many occasions, this food was passed over by children to others within the community who are not provided for by the program.

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