OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST Warburton Ranges 1974 – 75 (22)

Truancy and non-attendance at school was a key issue. This notwithstanding the support programs in place, which included meals in the community children’s dining room. The issue of school attendance was one particularly challenging during the cold winter months. With overnight temperatures often around the freezing point mark and not getting above the high teens or very low 20s during the day, one could understand the reluctance of children to move from camp areas to the settlement for the start of the school day. Winter winds were often bitterly cold, sweeping across the flats toward the camps and settlement.

Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1974-75 (22)

We often experienced the phenomena of black frost, a sheen of dark hue colour on the land in the early morning. There was no moisture but the ground was bitterly cold. The mirage lifted off after the run rose in the sky, but its disappearance was often slow.

Although we had a clothing program which supported the children, footwear was not a part of what was offered. Children and adults at Warburton were, and the majority, always barefooted.

During winter months, children and adults hardened feet would often crack open because of the cold. Medication to heal cracked feet took a long time to work. I absolutely admired the way people, notwitstanding fractured skin, managed to move around quite adroitly and nimbly. That must have taken courage and fortitude.

One of our Aboriginal support staff members Bernard Near Berry (who later became a senior called at Warburton) worked hard to convince students about the value of school and education.

On occasion, I would go out in our Mini Moke into some of the camping areas, to talk with students and parents about school attendance. This contact helped but the issue of truancy was always one offering challenge. I could relate a number of incidents of somewhat seven humorous nature that occurred during times spent encouraging students toward school attendance; however, this chapter is not the appropriate forum for recounting these incidents.

We worked hard to make the school relevant to meeting the educational and developmental needs of children. Basic learning needs (literacy and numeracy) were the focus of learning. “Learning by doing” and “hands on” experiences were developed in order to help make learning live. Some of these strategies are outlined in the following segment.

In the overall context , I felt that we did a very good job in terms of developing the programs we offered our student cohort, so they met curriculum requirements and the needs of students.

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