Community Supporting Public Education

Host: Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association
Written by Michelle Eulenstein

Save the date for the 2018 Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association Federal Conference to be held in Canberra, August 1-2. This promises to be a great conference! Find all information at this link:  #ICPAconf18

Michelle Eulenstein grew up on Magnetic Island in Far North QLD and fell in love with a farmer at the Goondiwindi Picnic Races. Phill, Michelle and their two children live on the family farm “Boola” in Northern NSW where they farm grain alongside Phill’s parents. Michelle is the secretary of the Moree Branch of ICPA.

Four years ago, Tulloona Public School was put into recess. We were down to one enrolment, no bus run and a seemingly bleak future. All of you are likely to understand what this means to a small community – it was the absolute worst possible scenario for the future of our community. Not only would it mean long bus rides into town for our children but it will also affect our businesses with no incentive for employees with families to move to the area and nothing to bring the community together. Tulloona is an area of farms not a town and so the school is an essential meeting place that ties everyone together.

The department was fantastic in facilitating a community forum and consulted with the Isolated Children’s and Parents Association (ICPA), our mobile preschool director, teachers, parents and community members. Because of this consultation we were able to establish that the number of enrolments for the next five years was excellent and that the Tulloona Public School had extremely strong community support. ICPA were instrumental in this meeting as they were able to gather information from the community and support both the department and families. This paved the way to success for our school and the rich education that we have been able to create together with a hub of services all for the benefit of our children’s future.

Our mobile preschool, Tharawonga Mobile Resource Unit (TMRU) was also key to the survival of our school as it had fourteen enrolments at the time and continued to run despite the school being closed. Ms Kent and her staff were a supportive element in our upturned lives and their presence gave life to the school and continued to bring everyone together each week. TMRU were the most important element to all this as we had three new families move to the area and TMRU offered them a gateway into the community, our school and offered a sense of security that our school would reopen.

Here is a prime example of just how important mobile preschools are in our remote communities and that is why ICPA has backed them so strongly. Our director at the time was proactive in supporting the school remaining open by attending meetings, giving information on her enrolments and working with school staff to transition the pre-school students into Kindergarten. The director of the second mobile preschool we now have is just as passionate about rural communities and small schools having been the director of the Gwydir Mobile Preschool for 25 years. She has the wellbeing of her families at the forefront of her mind and has been known to door knock during a drought to ensure her families are ok. Because we are so isolated mobile preschools are an essential part of our community, not just a service.

The school re-opened as planned in 2015 with seven enrolments and has now grown to eleven! How quickly things can change. This shows what is possible when a community work together with our public education system to ensure accessibility to a quality education for isolated children. We could not have reached the point we are at today without the hard work ICPA do behind the scenes to support rural, remote and regional education.

I know I’m preaching to the converted but our mobile preschools and small schools really are the backbone of our remote communities. Our children deserve the best start to their education, they deserve to have a school close to their home so they don’t spend hours on a bus every day, they deserve not to riddled with exhaustion whilst trying to learn all there is to learn to be a formidable opponent in a job with their city counterpart in 20 years time. ICPA has done and will continue to do all they can to ensure the survival of our rural, remote and regional schools.

The faces of Tulloona.