OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST (36)

EPILOGUE

Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1974-75 (36)

In our closing period of time at Warburton, Civil and Civic were building a new hospital. It was divided into wards, an emergency department and other specialist areas. This project included a number of buildings most with circling verandahs and each overhung with a metal panoply roof to facilitate ventilation and cooling. Each building was also semi elevated

As the buildings were constructed, they became inviting play arenas for children. The verandahs were terrific play areas, while the space between building roofs and panoplys were great for upstairs activities. I often wondered how the company went in terms of completing the project and handing keys over to the health department. Contractors were certainly challenged while the work was being done. This was compounded by the fact that any damage caused by mischief was the contractor’s responsibility to fix.

We were in Perth for a few brief weeks after Warburton and before departing for the Northern Territory. On reflection during those weeks I dwelt that we had done a reasonable job, one with the best educational and developmental needs of children at heart. So it was with mixed feelings that I followed what happened after our departure.

Following our departure and on the appointment of a successor, all hell erupted at Warburton. There were stories on the radio news of children wreaking mayhem in and around the school. Within a month of our departure one of Perth’s weekend papers ‘The Sunday Independent’ ran a front page story about the fact that things were out of control at Warburton School. A segment of the story reported that after hours children were getting into the main school building and among other activities were riding bikes up and down the corridor that linked the classrooms. We most certainly had never ever had that type of behaviour manifest while at Warburton.

This news stirred mixed feelings in my soul. On the one hand I was not happy that this level of flagrant behaviour was occurring but on the other, considered it ‘payback’ or ‘reaction’ by children that we were no longer at Warburton.

The memory of one conversation I had with a senior officer within the WA Education Department during this period caused me to shudder at the time and remains with me as a memory of ‘blight’ within the then upper echelons of WA Education. It was put upon me that we were working in a way that was ‘over-educating’ remote area Indigenous students, who would not be able to use the understanding toward which they were being educated. That was a sad statement statement and one that I would never forget.

Regardless of what, my aim was always toward children reaching their full potential. Then and over the years to my retirement from front line educational delivery some 37 years later.

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