On Australia’s "Dinosaur Trail"
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 6, 3 September 2021, page no.8
In late May, Paul Waters, the QTU’s North Queensland Organiser, and I drove out of Townsville and headed to Hughenden, through the picturesque outback, only stopping at the historic town of Charters Towers.
On the long roads, we watched the landscape turn from lush coastal tropics to red dirt and blue skies. We reminisced about the times we both spent working in rural schools and the impact it had on our teaching career.
Occasionally passing a triple-B truck was unfamiliar territory to me, as I had never visited the towns along the north-west corridor before. Driving into Hughenden was a sight to see, with a huge windmill standing in the middle of the town. There Paul and I met with members from Hughenden State School, a P-12 campus of approximately 85 students.
We then headed along Australia’s dinosaur trail to Richmond State School, a P-10 campus of around 80 students. Over the next few days, we also visited Julia Creek State School, Pentland State School and Homestead State School, all of which are very small multi-age schools with teaching principals.
One thing became very clear during those visits, and that was the school’s place as the hub and heart of the community. For some of these towns, it was the only place providing a government service.
These schools are places for people to come together, whether for sporting or social activities; they are places for kids, parents, and volunteers to meet in person regularly, even though they may live a long way from each other, and they offer a place of refuge during natural disasters or crisis situations.
There are many positive aspects of country service, including recognition of rural and remote service, assistance with moving costs, additional leave entitlements, financial allowances, professional development, and career progression opportunities.
From a pedagogical perspective, teachers in these areas are innovative thinkers, delivering multi-age curriculum while still ensuring it has meaning and is relevant to the local context and meets the needs of all students.
They are problem solvers. They have to adapt to challenging situations like the unreliability of the internet and the shortage of teachers, and teaching principals have to not only teach but undertake administrative tasks.
Decision makers need to keep in mind the realities of all schools when developing education policies, at both state and federal levels. They must think outside the metropolitan bubble and also consider the needs of our teachers, principals and students in rural and remote settings.
So, if you have ever considered teaching in a rural and remote community; now is the time. There is high demand, with 63 per cent of state schools located in these areas, offering more permanent opportunities compared to those in metropolitan areas.
The QTU knows that Queensland has the nation’s most diverse state schooling system. We know that because our members are #QTUeverywhere.