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Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 8, 6 November 2020, page no. 21
This column is a space to explore issues directly affecting our new educator membership, featuring their voices and lived experience. This edition explores the experience of beginning teachers who have completed rural and remote service. Statewide service is an integral part of working as a state school teacher in Queensland, ensuring that students across the state have access to an outstanding education. It’s also an experience that can be instrumental in shaping the teacher and person you grow to become.
My best friend from uni and I were offered our first teaching position in the small town of Tannum Sands, just south of Gladstone. We grabbed this opportunity with both hands. I thrived in the Gladstone region, because of its community focus. I was supported to try new things, including roller derby. This led not only to lifelong friends and opportunities to travel interstate and overseas but was also how I met my partner! I loved my time in the Gladstone region, and would encourage other young teachers to get out and explore our great state and the education opportunities it affords both our teachers and students.
I’ve been living in Weipa for three years, comfortably the best few years of my life. In remote locations, especially those located near or within Indigenous communities, the natural environment is central to all aspects of life. The highlight of living in Cape York is the ability to explore the natural wonders and diverse landscape at your doorstep. That being said, I’ve learnt to show respect to the both the custodians of the land and the land itself. This year really emphasised those learnings, after I trod on a stingray in the September school holidays and the barb impaled my right leg. This was profiled by the media, and while the 15 minutes of fame were all well and good, the recovery will be a little bit longer! However, this incident hasn’t dampened my glowing impression of living in a remote location or my passion for teaching within a remote community. The support I have received has been unlike anything I’ve experienced living in a city. I would thoroughly recommend that new educators get among our state’s remote communities; you won’t regret it.
Aurukun is a small community, and you very quickly build strong relationships with your colleagues, students and the people living there. In the two years I have been here I have learned a lot from the teachers, but in all honesty, for me, the life experiences and understanding of Australian culture that I have gained from my students and their families counts for a whole lot more. Working with students from a remote community is, at times, overwhelming but it can also be extremely rewarding. Many of our students only speak English at school, meaning academically they are behind the expected level for their age group, and they require a lot of support. Also, many have complicated histories and at first appear reluctant to trust. However, as you work with them, you find that you can make a huge impact on their lives. Life in a remote community is not without its challenges, but if you come with the right attitude, an open heart and mind, and a willingness to learn, then you will find it to be a once in a lifetime experience.
I moved to Doomadgee as a graduate four years ago. Settling in wasn’t easy at first, but I met a lot of like-minded young teachers who are now my closest friends. I have also developed friendships with people in the community and have had the privilege of learning about the unique country and culture here. My wife and I have just had our first child, and even though we’re a long way from our families, we’ve got so much support from our friends and from the community and we really feel like locals. I have learned so much, personally and professionally, that I would never have had the opportunity to learn anywhere else.