Through the eyes of a rural parent

Host: Isolated Children’s Parent’s Association
Written by Donna Donaldson – Owner, Surbiton South Station, Alpha QLD.

Donna lives on a cattle property 60km north of Alpha with her husband and five children. Donna is passionate about education and is a member of ICPA. Over the years Donna has taught her children through Distance education and the older ones attended a little school about 70km from where they lived. 

Sending my first of five children away for the very first time was the most gut wrenching thing a mother can do. My husband, as much as he was distraught, would always respond to people with “the cow always bellows longer than the calf.” I remember on the drive home and holding it together quite well until we called into a café at Roma. There I ran into friends of ours who also had just dropped their child off at school for the very first time. Well, I took one look at her eyes to see them all teary and burst into tears to the point of hyperventilating and ran out to the car chucking all the food through the window to my husband who at this stage thought someone had abused me. You know when you were a child and your mother would say “settle down, breathe”, well that was me. I then continued to cry the entire year.


That was a few years ago and this year the last of my five started year seven. Did I cry as much? Absolutely not. I thought I would since she was my last child but I have seen the advantages of boarding school and she had already been at home for two years on her own. All my children are different and they have all evolved in different ways, some have taken on everything they possibly could at school and some were just happy to do what they had to. Yes, they have cried at different times and said, “I hate it, can I please come home?”, to then go on and say, “Thank you for making me stay, I love you”.


Parenting is the hardest job and I guess I’ve always followed my gut in making decisions with my children when they are so far away. I’ve missed the children having friends over for the weekend and getting to know them well. I’ve missed sporting events, though with technology someone will always tape it for you and send it through. It’s that they are in the care of someone else, they are influenced by someone else. Having a good relationship with the school helps, it makes it easier when they know your expectations and you know theirs. I remember having to say the boarder parent speech for my second child who left in 2013. My first line was . . . “Five years ago I dropped off a shy girl from the bush who had never sat in a school room for more than a week and today I am taking home a young lady who has the confidence and ability to do whatever she wants to in life.”


My husband and I have had at least one child at boarding school for the last 10 years and we have five more years to go, the countdown is on. School fees are the one thing that just keeps going up and up and I’d like to thank ICPA Australia for their tireless work on increasing the funding for children going away to boarding schools due to living in remote areas. Alpha has an amazing ICPA (Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association) even though we have limited proactive members, though we can pull off a State Conference and hold a fabulous cricket day in January. We all know the benefits this organisation has for us and the voice it gives to families who otherwise may go under the radar. All my children have done and continue to do extremely well at boarding school whether through sporting, academic, or purely increasing their network by having lots of friends from different backgrounds. They learn to be responsible, confident, well-adjusted young adults and that is all we can ask for.


ICPA (Aust) is a voluntary, non-profit, apolitical parent body, dedicated to ensuring all rural and remote students have equity of access to a continuing and appropriate education. We welcome membership and all interested persons are invited to join the Association.  To join click this link. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.