About pooroldhenry

I was a long term Northern Territory (NT) Educator, commencing my teaching career in WA in 1970. We came to the NT in July 1975 and worked in remote, town then urban communities. My tenure in the NT was at Numbulwar School (1975- 1978), Angurugu Community School on Groote Eylandt (1979-1982), Nhulunbuy Primary School (1983-1986), then Karama School (1987-1991) and lastly Leanyer School (1992 until retiring in January 2012). I filled the position of school principal from 1977 until my retirement. My career started at Warburton Ranges in WA as a teacher in 1970 then as headmaster in 1974. My major focus on and belief in education is that it develop children and students holistically, preparing them for the whole of life. Educational partnerships involving staff, students, community and department have always been important. I am a Fellow and Lifetime Member of the Council of Education Leaders, a Life Member of the Association of School Education Leaders (recently rebranded as the Northern Territory Principals Association) and was awarded the Commonwealth Centenary Medal for contribution to education. A member of Toastmasters International I am an Advanced Toastmaster Gold (ATMG). I hold a number of degrees and remain actively interested in and contributive to education. A highlight of my 'recent' life (from 2011 until 2016) was contributing to Teacher Education at Charles Darwin University. This has involved marking, tutoring and lecturing in a part time capacity. I was also involved with our Department of Education (NT) as a member of the Principals Reference Group (2012 until 2016) and have worked with others on the establishment of a Principals Coaching and Mentoring program. From 2014, I was the Education Minister's Nominee on the NT Board of Studies until its reconstitution in July 2016. Prior to retirement from full time work I represented the Education Department on the Board (2009 - 2011). I was working in support of students enrolled with the School of Education at CDU from 2012 until 2017. I enjoyed the chance to give back to the profession which over many years has done much for me. From July 2013 until the end of June 2019, I wrote a weekly column about educational matters for the Darwin/Palmerston /Litchfield 'Suns' Newspapers and then the rebranded 'Suns Newspaper' with Territory-wide circulation. This newspaper ceased publication in June 2019. I occasionally write for other papers and am a contributor to professional magazines and online discussion about educational matters. Included were regular contributions to the Australian Council of Education's 'e-Teaching' and 'e-Leading' publications, which ceased as communications organs in December 2017. I hold retired member's status with the Australian Education Union (NT), contributing occasionally to union publications. I am presently working on developing a series of vignettes, aimed at providing information that pre-service and beginning teachers may find useful. They are oriented toward assisting with an understanding of practices that may assist meet professional and teaching needs. To date, 89 of these have been completed. I contribute to general conversations and various groups on ‘Linked In’ and am also a contributor to ‘The Conversation’. I have a blog site at henrygrayblog.wordpress.com and invite you to access it at any time should you so wish. Henry Gray February 28 2020

The Two Groups

In education in both schools a d support services areas, it is often said there are two groups – the ‘talkers’ and the ‘workers’. It is sometimes said that talkers find work for the workers to do.

We need people who talk the talk to also be prepared to walk the walk. That does not always happen.

A person I knew well once told me that workers were invaluable and added value to the school. The same person suggested that those who were only prepared to talk and not to work, should be loaded onto a transport carrier, taken for a long, long drive on a back road, removed from the truck and made to walk home.

Workers earn the respect of colleagues and in schools, the respect of students. The same level of respect is held for talkers who do not worn to translate their advice into action outcomes.

Have a good weekend

At the end of the working week with the sun going down on Friday, a good time is offered to reflect on what has been and what has been accomplished (together with challenges remaining) during the working week just ended.

Reflection at week’s end is important. With the sun going down on Friday, a good time is offered to reflect on what has been and what has been accomplished (together with challenges remaining) during the working week just ended.Reflection is important. It should take account of the things done well along with tasks yet to be accomplished.

OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1974-75 (23)

In order to afford the best opportunities possible to our student cohort, we planned and programmed in a way that developed logical and sequenced learning. Engagement by students in learning was also a priority, with this adding a dimension to what might other wise have been a chalk and talk approach.

We followed the WA Education Department curriculum requirements but took into account the need to adjust content in a way that recognised the learning of children to date. There were learning shortfalls that result from sporadic school attendance and we worked to make up for gaps in learning by revisiting subject areas where students needed remediation.

In order to familiarise senior students with community contexts, we developed a wall and ceiling dictionary organised in an A-Z manner. This was an exercise with a time daily commitment. Students drew a picture of the object, person or subject on a large sheet of cartridge paper. The name or title of the picture was then added, with that dictionary/ identity sheet being added to the dictionary. All wall space was eventually covered. When writing, students wanting spelling assistance relating to items covered by the dictionary, were able to check the walls and ceiling until they found what they were seeking. This added to both student independence and confidence when they were writing.

Creative and imaginative writing was a focus. I found that older students, both females and male, came to derive quite a lot of enjoyment from producing written text. On occasion, children were given pictures and photographs to incorporate as illustrations into stories. Correct spelling of words was encouraged.

There was a focus on handwriting including the ‘three p’s’ of pencil/pen hold, paper position and posture.

Maths, as far as possible, was situational with examples supporting operations drawn from local experience and the environment of Warburton and its surrounds.

Children were encouraged to read orally and also to develop skills of understanding and comprehension from the written word.

I kept records of student progress in key learning areas (long, long before the concept of KLA’s was formalised) and we had a good understanding of how well children were doing. While the interest in school by adults was somewhat remote, we offered anecdotal comment and feedback, but in the social context of informal discussion.

Practical and focussed learning opportunities were offered For instance, the use of and understanding of money was aided by the setting up of a pretend shop with goods for sale. Goods (empty cans, packets and so on) were provided and money was used. An understanding of adding, subtraction and money management ways an outcome of this program.

There was a focus on both art and drama to reinforce other learning areas, particularly literature.

Doing the best we could for the betterment of students was uppermost in our minds. As will be revealed later, this motivation was not one that met with the approval of educational authorities.

Thank You

Always appreciate the efforts of others who contribute to educational enterprise within school organisations.

Remember to say “thank you“ and mean it. Never be flippant about giving praise and never be scarce in appreciating what others do.

There’s always a tendency to hand out brickbats but often bouquets are in short supply.

People appreciate being appreciated and help if that is the case to build the tone harmony and atmosphere within schools which after all the people based organisations.

Educate Readiness

In this day and age, we need to be ready for all eventualities. We never know what tomorrow is going to bring forward when we go to bed of a night. We need to prepare our minds and to self educate in order to be ready for work tomorrow might bring.

I think for parents, conversations with the children about being prepared can also be useful. In this day and age and in the Covid era we are never sure what we are going to find or experience around the next corner of tomorrow.We want our lives to be filled with meaning and substance. Lack of preparation in terms of getting ourselves ready for what we confront day by day, can leave us in a situation of where life is a vacuum.

All the best each and every day.


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.


The Balinese expats had plenty of time in past months to plan and return to Australia. The dilemma they confront could have been avoided had they heeded the earlier warnings about the inroads and impacts of this virus, and come back while the virus was still in its spreading stages.


I will vote in the upcoming local government elections for the mayoral candidate and aldermanic hopefuls in my ward who commit to maintaining and revitalising our older suburbs. This Council has been all about the CBD, by and large neglecting our suburbs for the past four years.


The security staff who work to provide safety to the public by guarding against aberrant and anti-social behaviour, deserve commendation. They work with limited powers. Those at Casuarina, Karama and Leanyer shopping centres do a great job and show empathy in their dealings with people. Thank you.

The Afghan interpreters who served Australian troops deployed to Afghanistan so loyally, so long and in life threatening situations MUST be uplifted and relocated with their families in Australia. The tardiness and pussy footing going on around this issue must cease. The lives of these people, who were faithful Australian servants, is in the hands of our Federal Government.

OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1974-75 (21)

Additional clothing stocks available meant that we were able to upgrade our care program for students. The showering program outlined earlier was limited by the fact that children had to put dirty clothes back on after showering. In that context, children’s were always in clothes needing a wash.

With second hand clothing now available, we were able to modify the program. Children showered each morning and put their used clothes back on. When they arrived at school, they changed from these clothes to a second set of clean clothes which were in their desks. This was done with the appropriate circumspection. Having changed, the children were then organised to wash their dirty clothes with soap or detergent, before rinsing them out. Clothes were then placed in appropriate drying places within the environment of the school yard.

No matter what the season, Warburton’s moisture free atmosphere meant that the clothes quickly dried. Children would then collect and fold clothes, leaving them in their desks for changing the next morning. In terms of weekend’s, Friday’s washed clothes were there for Monday morning.

There were some disruptions to this program, these occasioned by circumstances but it was generally maintained. I like to think it made a difference to the wellbeing of our students. Importantly, it showed them and their families that we cared.

We were able to support students in other ways that promoted as sense of self worth and personal pride. Senior girls were offered personal grooming opportunities through hair care. They would washing their own heads or those of peers, then taking pride in combing and other aspects of hair care. The basic equipment we had for these programs meant that students has to make do in rudimentary circumstances. There were far more plusses than minuses for these extension opportunities offered, particularly to our older children.

While these activities were supplementary to core education, they needed to be met in order to provide children with the feeling of wellbeing that is so important if learning is to be meaningful. We were keen to do the best we could, as a school staff, by the students entrusted to us for educational care and development.

OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1974-75 (20)

Helping with personal hygiene and cleanliness was not aided by the fact that members of the Warburton Community, adults and children alike, were not overly endowed with clothing. Scarcity of clothing was not helped, for children at least, by the fact that if jumpers and outer garments were removed when it was hot, they were generally dropped on the ground and left behind. While others in time might pick up and utilise discarded garments, they tended to be left where they fell.

While clothing, in terms of warmth offered, was not an issue in the hot summer months with their generally warm nights, winter offered a different scenario. Very cool days and cold nights were added to by the cold wind that whipped into Warburton from the dry hinterland.

With the issue of need in mind, and taking into account the fact that little clothing was carried for purchase in the store, I wrote a couple of letters to newspapers, appealing for clothing donations. We asked that people consider donating clothes for both adults and children. The situation of need was carefully explained. Clothing donations were to be sent to us via the Thomas Nationwide Transport (TNT) depot in Kalgoorlie. TNT’s period contractor who serviced the Warburton run, Dennis Meaker, had generously volunteered to transport clothing to us freight free from Kalgoorlie. Depending on circumstances, Dennis made the Warburton run either each week or each fortnight.

We received substantial donations of clothing. As boxes of clothing arrived, we sorted them into four groups for temporary storage purposes. The divisions were womens, mens, girls and boys.

On Saturday mornings each fortnight or three weeks (depending on supply), we organised clothing into four areas in the three classrooms in the main school building. Girls and women’s clothes went into one area, with boys and men’s in the other classrooms. We organised entry and exit at each end of the passage. As people left with their choice of clothing, we asked for a donation of 20 cents for each item. This money was generally forthcoming but if payment was not possible, the clothing was freely given.

Money collected went into school funds and was used to purchase goods for student use. The amount of money allocated by the Education Department for school requisites was paltry (only a few hundred dollars for the school each year), so this money was a useful supplement.

The extra clothing that became available through this program, meant that we were able to upgrade our hygiene programs for students.


People in the NT (the majority at least) act as if Covid is history. Howard Springs quarantining efficiency has made us complacent. Tourists are pouring up here like never before and the mixing and mingling defies all social distancing rules. Maybe 5% observe physical distancing and hand hygiene wiith less than that using the NT QR code.

They are now doing sewage testing. For a good while, electronic number plate recognition on border entry points was the only survelliance of traffic. More recently, borders are again being governed by human presence.

With the Northern Territory recently being confronted with a outbreak which manifested self at The Granites Mine, there was a temporary change in attitude. The five day partial lockdown woke some people up, but the awakening seems to have been temporary. I am not holding my breath about any permanent change, but hope to be proved wrong. While the QR codes are now everywhere and their use mandatory, I suspect that things are slackening by the day. We forget too quickly.