Despite the daunting challenges of expense and the tyranny of distance, geographically isolated families commit to the lion’s share of responsibility to educate their children.
ICPA advocates for equity in education for students who live in rural and remote Australia, including for mobile early learning resources and for help for parents with no other choice but to send their children to boarding school.
“It’s not easy,” says ICPA NT founding member Jan Heaslip. “Primary education through School of the Air and secondary education via boarding school requires a lot of parent contribution, including financial contribution. Most people simply don’t realise how expensive it is.”
Isolated students not able to access remote small schools tend to learn through the School of the Air during their primary school years and then board for high school. Some go to the highly regarded St Philip’s College in Alice Springs and some go interstate, particularly to be close to extended family for support.
“Most parents don’t have a choice but to send their children to boarding school – there is no alternative. All children deserve the opportunity to socially interact with other children; bush children need sporting, music and learning opportunities as much as any child in town.”
Access to good education is recognised as a key force in persuading parents to continue working in remote parts of Australia. Jan says the School of the Air and schools such as St Philip’s play a critical role in maintaining the fabric of remote life.
“They do a marvellous job,” she says. The ICPA NT Inc. was founded in 1979. Jan’s late husband Grant was a founding member of the NT Cattlemen’s Association, which has always had close links with the ICPA.
Most ICPA members are pastoralists, but membership also includes remote health workers, teachers, police and store managers. Jan and Grant are revered for working hard to maintain remote communities, particularly on cattle stations.