OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1974-75 (24)

We had some exciting and meaningful times at Warburton, in what amounted to extension programs aimed at extending and enriching student experiences. One of the most memorable was an overnight camp we organised at a location out of Warburton. This involved taking food for a number of meals and planning with the community for children to spend the night away from their home camps. The interaction between students and their relaxed manner with each other was a highlight of the brief time we spent in that outdoors situation.

Years later I reflected on the fact that the limitations usually adhered to, in terms of relationships, had not manifest themselves in any way during that time. Neither were these relationship elements particularly obvious in classroom contexts.

(There are two other commonly held belief points which I felt, from personal interactions with students, little more than myths. The first was that individual children did not like praise for work well done, because they preferred to be be identified as members of groups rather than in a singular context. Children often worked in groups and collective appreciation was an element of recognition. However, I never found individual students reluctant to accept praise.

The other enjoinder offered was not to ask children to look you in the eye, because that was shameful for them. They preferred to look down or look away when talking, averting facial contract. I found that not to be the case, not only at Warburton but in association with Aboriginal children in other locations. Sometimes our predispositions to accepting particular and somewhat negative viewpoints, can minimise our effectiveness as educators in working to develop personality traits and characteristics in children.)

Swimming and water experience opportunities were limited by the dry nature of the country in which we were living. There was a windmill about 2 kilometres to the east of Warburton which pumped everlastingly into a 15,000 litre tank. On occasion, I would take a class of students on a walk to the mill. They would climb up into the talk and have a great time in this makeshift swimming pool. The more daring among the group would climb to the top of the frame supporting the mill, then jump off, ‘bom shelling’ into the tank. There were no accidents or injuries for children seemed to have an uncanny sense about safety and self preservation. (Imagine the trouble one would be in these days, if such an activity was undertaken.)

A most memorable swimming excursion was to a waterhole we hard of, located a good number of kilometres to the south-west of Warburton. Rainfall had created the waterhole. We had a mini-make, new at the beginning of 1974, which we had shipped up to Warburton on the TNT transport. I loaded 19 (yes, nineteen) young people on the Moke and at a very slow speed, we set out for the waterhole. On occasion, road conditions made transport impossible so students would help the Moke through the short intervals of difficult terrain. We made it there and back with children having a great time in the water. (Once more, you would not be game to undertake such an outing these days for fear of offending OH and S regulations.)

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