you're reading...
Australian Current Affairs

Australian Aboriginal school kids treated like rubbish

Moree East pupils Zachary Baker-Barlow, left, and Tyrese Fernando with staffer Paula Duncan

Moree East pupils Zachary Baker-Barlow, left, and Tyrese Fernando with staffer Paula Duncan

Walgett Community High and Moree East Public are the schools that bureaucracies forgot, in physically deplorable condition and battling the pathogen of low expectations from all quarters.

By NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli’s own admission, the schools have been failed from the top by hulking institutions run from Sydney that swept them out of sight, confining them to standards that would be deemed unacceptable in any Australian city.

“I think it is fair to say we have treated Aboriginal people like rubbish,” Mr Piccoli told state parliament last week.

He took that extraordinarily frank statement further this week in an interview with The Australian, describing the “disgusting” condition of several NSW schools with large numbers of indigenous students in remote towns such as Walgett, Moree, Wilcannia and Brewarrina.

“They’re a long way away, out of sight and out of mind, and as such I think historically we have applied a different standard to them,” Mr Piccoli said.

“We are happy to let standards slip when Aboriginal communities and people are involved, where we wouldn’t otherwise let those standards slip.”

That neglect filters through to students such as Luveina Murphy and Deborah Dodd at Walgett High, who find the lack of attention palpable.

Neither knows what they want to do when they leave school, except that both intend to finish Year 12, despite the statistics.

“But I know that that is really hard to do,” said Luveina, who is in Year 9.

“Some of my friends just stopped going to school. They don’t care and nobody outside of Walgett cares about the school. Like, maybe they know something we don’t.”

If there were ever any doubt decisions from within the system were disproportionately affecting Aboriginal students, the community of Moree in the NSW northwest sets the record straight.

It is a town divided: by a river and by resources.

At Moree Public School in the town’s west, one-third of students are indigenous and its manicured hedges and up-to-date infrastructure are a world away from Moree East Public, just a kilometre down the road and with an almost entirely indigenous student body.

There, students Tyrese Fernando, 8, and Zachary Baker-Barlow, 7, are too young and brimming with optimism to fully understand that their school has been pulled into a downward slide behind the apparently favoured Moree Public.

Paula Duncan, who helps care for her grandson Tyrese, said there was no doubt inequity was writ large in the school.

“There are some real tough little kids who come from some tough families at this place,” she said.

“It’s a good school trying to do good things but it can only push so far if there’s no help coming.”

Both Walgett, a town of 2300, and the larger centre of Moree are communities buffeted by broader cultural forces such as alcohol, drugs, crime and domestic violence, which rock families before children even make it to the schools. The kids have been failed by a cascading series of decisions and circumstances, sometimes by parents who were themselves left out in the cold.

Moree Aboriginal woman Lucinda, who did not want to use her last name, lives in the boarded-up section of town where homes are routinely set on fire, drugs are bought and sold and kids as young as eight run into trouble with police.

“The kids around here, they learn what they live, you know,” she said.

“This area is getting to be like (inner-Sydney) Redfern was more than a decade ago. How are they gonna learn and value an education when they can’t even stay safe at home?”

Students at Walgett High describe conditions there as “disgusting”, “depressing”, “uncomfortable” and “awful”.

Year 9 student Gloria Winters wants to be a midwife and her friend Peter Stewart, 16, wants to be an architect. But their voices fade into the soft whisper of the unsure when asked whether they think they have the support needed to each do what they want.

“I don’t know, I don’t know how,” Gloria said.

Peter is just as uncertain about his future.

“I said I wanted to be an architect, not that I would,” he said.

Mr Piccoli told The Weekend Australian yesterday the failure to maintain the schools was a systemic problem.

“I certainly bear responsibility like everybody else within the system of supporting schools,” he said. “While I was in opposition, I didn’t do enough about it.”

Mr Piccoli said that, while some of these schools would receive extra funding under the Gonski model that starts next year, many already received large amounts of money.

“Money isn’t necessarily the problem at these schools. Money always helps but really the issue is getting the right staff,” he said.

“There’s a lot of new and inexperienced teachers, who are great in tough schools, but if there are too many it can be difficult.”

NSW Department of Education data shows that despite the poor state of repair of the schools inspected by Mr Piccoli, there has been no lack of money spent on them. The MySchool website shows that $2.7 million had been spent on capital works at Walgett in the last three years. Also, its recurrent spending per student of $37,000 a year is more than three times the average in NSW.

A spokesman for the Education Department said the department was changing its asset management practices, and that the school’s remote location meant repairs were slower than in the city.

New solutions are being forged on the ground, too.

Moree East Public has a new principal, Aboriginal woman Muriel Kelly.

“When I arrived I checked on the enrolments for kindy and we only had one so I asked how we got the parents through and we had tables set up inside the schools with forms for the transition,” she said.

“But I decided to get some of the community officers and we went and doorknocked parents to tell them about kindergarten and, well, we raised the parents’ expectations which I didn’t feel the school had.”

She ended up with 28 enrolments on the back of that exercise.

Source: The Australian – Children ‘out of sight and out of mind’

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.


4 thoughts on “Australian Aboriginal school kids treated like rubbish

  1. A sad story. Things just seem to go around in circles.

    Posted by Conrad (The Wine Wankers) | October 2, 2013, 10:44


  1. Pingback: Recognition of Aborigines in Australia’s Constitution is a priority | Craig Hill - October 6, 2013

  2. Pingback: Australian Aboriginal school kids treated like rubbish | Craig Hill Training Services | AICL Colóquios da Lusofonia - March 23, 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

If you liked what you just read, click "Subscribe" to become a follower of the Craig Hill site. You will receive an email each time a new post is published.

Join 17,663 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

Most Recent Posts Post on My Blog About China: China News

China flexes new nuclear sub ahead of Party Congress

China flexes new nuclear sub ahead of Party Congress

For the first time, China has released video footage of its latest Type 094A nuclear-powered ballistic missile sub (SSBN) and Type 093 nuclear attack sub (SSN), a potent show of naval might ahead of China’s 20th Communist Party Congress in October. Chinese state media featured the subs in a training video for Liaoning, China’s first […]

Coronation Of Emperor Xi and the world thereafter

Coronation Of Emperor Xi and the world thereafter

A few days ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s arrest news took social media by storm. The atmosphere was jubilant as if the whole world looked forward to Xi’s exit. The rumor turned out to be fake news; Xi’s third term looks secured. Xi Jinping is all set to snatch the historic third term in the […]

China is coming for your land

China is coming for your land

Drought has plunged water levels to the lowest in China in decades. The temperatures have also soared to record levels, and hydropower plants failed to meet the sharp rise in power demand. However, this is just a glimpse of the worst things to come. Floods, droughts, and record-breaking temperatures would have a catastrophic effect on […]

Chinese drones now almost a daily appearance over Taiwan

Chinese drones now almost a daily appearance over Taiwan

The Chinese military has intensified its drone incursions into the skies above Taiwan with almost daily flights of combat and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) TB-001 drone was spotted crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the de facto boundary between the island and China’s […]

India says disengagement along disputed area with China to be completed by September 12

India says disengagement along disputed area with China to be completed by September 12

India’s foreign ministry said on Friday that disengagement along a disputed border area with China will be completed by Sept. 12. Both countries began disengaging from the Gogra-Hot Springs border area in the western Himalayas on Thursday, over two years after clashes at the frontier strained diplomatic ties. The disengagement comes ahead of a meeting […]

How to make EVs without China’s supply chain

How to make EVs without China’s supply chain

Two electrifying moves in recent weeks have the potential to ignite electric vehicle demand in the United States. First, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, expanding federal tax rebates for EV purchases. Then California approved rules to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. The Inflation Reduction Act extends the Obama-era EV tax […]

Anti-India forces: Techniques and agendas exposed

Anti-India forces: Techniques and agendas exposed

In the post-cold war era, India has moved from a policy of non-alignment to a policy of multi-alignment. This means that India has friendly relations with almost all-powerful and developing nations. Today India is carving out a unique path for itself. Such an approach provides prominence and exposes India to the harmful behind-curtain activities by […]

Taiwan’s Kinmen serves as a reminder of China’s aggression

Taiwan’s Kinmen serves as a reminder of China’s aggression

Taiwan’s frontline island of Kinmen was once again in the headlines when President Tsai Ing-wen paid tribute this week to the soldiers and civilians who “operated in solidarity and safeguarded Taiwan” 64 years ago. On Aug. 23, 1958 mainland Chinese troops attacked Kinmen in a key battle that marked the beginning of the Second Taiwan […]

Terrorism: The glue that holds China and Pakistan together 

Terrorism: The glue that holds China and Pakistan together 

The father of communism, Karl Marx, once famously said — “We have no compassion, and we ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror”. This statement summarises how terrorism and communism go hand in hand. Maoist China alone destroyed between 44.5 to 72 million lives. During […]

‘New normal’ across the Taiwan Strait as China threat looms ever closer

‘New normal’ across the Taiwan Strait as China threat looms ever closer

China is attempting to establish a “new normal” across the Taiwan Strait, eroding self-ruled Taiwan’s territorial control and increasing the threat of a strike with each military sortie, officials and analysts say. Beijing has ramped up military maneuvers in the 110-mile (180-kilometer) wide stretch of water that separates Taiwan from mainland China — and the […]

%d bloggers like this: