Host: Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association
Written by Tracey Errington
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: https://www.icpaconferenceaust.com/ #ICPAconf18
Moora Residential College was initially opened in 1974 to enable isolated students from throughout the state, who had no access to secondary education, to attend a secondary high school.
The need for access to secondary education was not only confined to isolated students in the far North and East of the state, but also students as close as 50-100kms from Moora. Bus runs, which were in place in the early years, only catered for land owners students.
If you were living on a farming property and only an employee these bus runs would only extend to a pick up from the farm for owners students. Access to secondary education was limited and most farmers sent their children to board in Perth, financially not an option for most other families. This meant these children had no access to, and did not complete secondary education, unless a parent moved into town, with the children, in order for them to access the high school.
You can see that the fracturing of rural families started long before these cuts were announced in December 2017.
Times changed and one of the aboriginal elders who lived through this inequality of access to education was instrumental in making sure no other child would have to suffer through the same hardships she and her siblings lived through.
This was where the community came together and, not only was Central Midlands Senior High School born (previously Moora High School), but also the St James Residential College. Purely established to enable equal access to education for all children, no matter their postcode, financial position or colour of their skin.
Central Midlands Senior High School, as the name suggests, is central to access for secondary education for all children, but mainly those in the area covered between Perth and Geraldton, an area over five times greater than that of the entire Perth metropolitan area.
Over the years Moora Residential College and the other seven regional residential colleges were taken over by Country Hostels Association (a government department). They were then moved to be under the umbrella of the WA Department of Education in 2017 and all hostels were rebranded as colleges hence the current name Moora Residential College.
In December 2017 the WA Labor State Government announced Moora Residential College would close. There was no discussion or consultation with either the families involved, or the communities which would be affected by this closure.
OUR KID’S STORIES
There are many stories to be told of the children who have passed through Central Midlands Senior High School and Moora Residential College, but we will tell you a few of the most recent as ultimately these are the ones affected most by the proposed closure of Moora Residential College.
Andy is one of our upcoming success stories. Andy’s mum Sam has seven other children who would benefit from Moora Residential College remaining open, but their future is now unclear as Sam runs their farming property north of Coorow, while her husband works FIFO to support their family. Andy asked his mum if they could rent a house in Moora so he can complete year 12 at CMSHS in 2019.
As much as Sam would like to, who would then run the farm if she moved to Moora? It would mean the additional financial burden of running a second household, not to mention uprooting his siblings from their current Primary School. If they were to move, Coorow Primary School then suffers the same fate as CMSHS with the loss of funding due to loss of students. As a small rural school this would be just as devastating for Coorow Primary School.
Andy is currently studying engineering at CMSHS. This is a boy whose mother never thought would even continue to ATAR studies but, thanks to the nurturing environment of our small school and residential college, Andy has flourished and is well on his way to achieving his goals – unless his second home is ripped out from under him.
Callum (year 8) and Tia (year 7), are a brother and sister from Eneabba who both suffer from anxiety. The thought of living away from home was daunting enough for their parents, to now be told their only options are Geraldton or Northam (both further away) has put enormous pressure on the entire family.
Geraldton Residential College feeds into four Senior High Schools with much larger student populations while Northam Residential College services Northam Senior High School with a student population of approximately 700.
Their mother Carolyn has said if it were not for the closeness of Moora and the small school environment, her two children would not be as happy and adjusting as well to boarding life as they are now. Tia and Callum are absolutely heartbroken and frightened at the thought of changing schools and losing the friend they have made both in the college and at school.
The care they receive from all the staff at Moora and the friendships they have made with local students will be lost in larger public schools.
These kids will be lost in larger public schools.
For the state government to put this sort of pressure on kids as young as 11 is absolutely unforgiveable.
We have a student from Eighty Mile Beach, between Port Hedland and Broome and was educated through School of the Air in her primary years. Her mother works in the family business and should the closure go ahead, will have no alternative but to uproot her remaining family and move to Moora so her daughter can continue her secondary education at CMSHS. This means she then has to find another source of income and another home.
Some of our students from Lancelin are in the care of their grandmother who has stated she will have to look at rental accommodation in Moora and run two households should the closure go ahead, so the children can remain at CMSHS – again forcing families to relocate, uproot the remaining members or run two households.
There is no financial assistance being offered to any of these parents to relocate to Moora or to alternatively board their children privately with other families within Moora.
Our three students from Marble Bar (all siblings), even though closer to Geraldton, choose to go to Moora because there are no direct flights from Marble Bar to Geraldton and they would be forced to fly to Perth and then Geraldton. This would mean less time with family on holidays. Two of the children have severe speech problems and are currently seeing our local speech pathologist and adjusting very well.
All of our children have a story and each one is different but the one thing they have in common is the reason they chose Central Midlands Senior High School and Moora Residential College.
The staff at both Central Midlands Senior High School and particularly, Moora Residential College, are second to none. This is the biggest advantage of a small school – not a disadvantage as the state government regularly points out.
The close working relationship between the school, the college and the local community ensures these kids will never fall through the cracks. From little things like teachers volunteering their own time to tutor students, taking them to sporting commitments, excursions and generally going the extra mile, each and every student, and their families, who pass through our town are considered part of our town, our community and our families.
Ask any child who attends the College and they will tell you the Residential Staff are like their second set of parents.
Every two years the State Government sends a survey to parents of students residing in public residential colleges like Moora. This is to gauge the standard of the service in each College.
Our College has topped the scores each time.
The only section we scored average in was the condition of the building – not below average, not poor, just average.
The building was opened in 1974 and it is old, we don’t deny that. It could use an upgrade, we don’t deny that either. It is NOT, however, unsafe or in need of demolition as stated by certain members of the current state government.
Why would any parent put their child in harms way if this was the case? Why would the state government continue to let those same children be housed in a building that was unsafe?
It’s old but reasonably well maintained.The staff have, on occasion, carried out cosmetic maintenance (e.g. painting) during their own time just to keep the building looking nice. It is always tidy and, more importantly, it’s home to our kids.
All we are asking of the state government is to give us permission to have an independent assessor enter the College, so we can begin the job of maintaining the building, and for them to continue our annual funding to keep a roof over these kid’s head and not tear apart the lives of 26 kids and their families.
There is no saving on closing the college – the funding follows the students regardless of whichever facility they are housed at, the cost to close it is more than just financial, it is also the emotional cost on our children and their families – is the cost worth it?
How can the state government put a price on the heads of these children, or any children for that matter and especially when it is done all in the name of political point scoring and nothing more?
CWA of WA Rally for the 1st time in History.
Moora banner in Las Vegas.
Moora College Head Boy Andy Penny with his baby Brother.
Moora Quokka on Publicity Rounds.
Perth Rally at Parliament House.
Support from in front of Buckingham Palace.