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Charleville School of Distance Education celebrates 50 golden years

Golden opportunity: The cover of the book documenting the history of the Charleville School of the Air, authored by Jennie Bucknell and Julie Hawker.Schools of the Air were a revolutionary concept for ruralfamilies around Australia, struggling with huge distances and isolation from the source of their lessons sent out from Primary Correspondence Schools.

Alice Springs pioneered the ideain 1951 but it was an exciting time for Queenslanders onJanuary 24, 1966 when Joe Tully answered the opening roll call broadcast from the Royal Flying Doctor base at Charleville, beginninga tradition of teacher-pupil interaction from the south westthat’s now half a century old.

Charleville School of the Air’s first teacher-In-charge, Anna Andler, at her desk in 1966, features prominently in the history book.

Part of the commemorations for the Charleville School of Distance Education’s golden jubilee in mid-August this year included a celebratory book, an eclectic collection of facts and recollections, anecdotes, comments and photosthat show the human element of such a uniquely Australian school.

Coming froma P&C meeting discussion, it is the creation of Mitchell’sJennie Bucknell, renowned as the author of Bush Kids, and a pastparent, Julie Hawker.

After discussing formats, a call was put out to the extended school community, past and present, for contributions in the form of memories and photos.

“The response was incredible and speaks volumes of the strength of communityof this school,” Julie said.“We were flooded with beautiful photos, memorabilia,anecdotes and memories.”

A photo from the 1967 Sports Day Muster at the Charleville showgrounds, in its second year. Anna Andler, the first teacher-in-charge, initiated the muster in October 1966, even marking out the track herself, with the intention of providing a chance for isolated students and teachers to put faces to names.

She said anoverwhelming theme through the book was the community spirit of all involvedwith the school.

“Throughout all the changes with delivery of lessons, thestrong relationship between the school staff, parents and students has neverwavered.”

Never was that more evident than when the pair’s unreliable internet failed to cope with the amount of data they needed to transfer.

“Due tothe vagaries of our internet we found that the easiest thing to do was tomeet in Charleville, a 550km round trip each, several times through themaking of the book,” Julie explained.

“Jenny Swadling (the principal)had to open the schoolfor us over the holidays at times so that we had somewhere to meet andaccess to the archives.

“Other times we found that the only way to sharefiles was to drive to the nearest town and find a wifi connection.”

Any gaps in contributions were filled by school archives, which weremade fully available for us to use for the duration of the project.

CSOTA fathers ambling down the track in a Father’s Day race one year – there was as much laughing and puffing as there was effort.

Some precious contributions were those of the first teacher-in-charge,Anna Andler (now Curtis) who sent original copies of telegrams, invitations,newspaper articles and photos, and Helen Shannon (Hacker) who sent foldersof lesson plans, photos, newspaper articles and past school publications.

These original documents, as well as the incredibly generous contributionsfrom other members of the community, were invaluable for telling the storyof the school over the decades.

The loss of so much school history in the 1990 flood made it difficult to put a lot of names to faces, according to Julie, butthe authorshadBill and Jan L’Estrange volunteer to edit their work, and former principalKaren Tully asfact-checker.

Julie said they wanted it tobe more than just a history of the school.

“We alsoaimed to capture the spirit of the school and give readers from all walks oflife, a real insight into how a school of the air (school of distanceeducation) works,” she said.

It has been divided into three broad sections to delve into each aspect of the school community–at school, at home, and getting together –and followed the decades through in each section.

At Schoolfocuses ontheschool’s development (including support services) and the teachers’experiences through the years; At Homefocuses on the comments andexperiences of children and their parents and; Getting Togetherrepresented all the times both sections of the school community cometogether, atsports muster, camps and swim muster.

There were plenty of funny anecdotes that showed even though things change, the challenges and triumphs don’t.

Kelly Twist, Juandah Downs, Mungallala, at kitchen play while her mother Kate was in the schoolroom.

Many teachers new to SDE/SOTA had to learn a new “bush language” when their students talked about mustering, poddies and smoko.

As teacher Jacqui Surman said, “I’d never heard of the Cunnamulla Fella, I’dnever experienced ‘smoko.’ I’d never encountered so many individual childrenwith the same lust for the land. Amazing!”

When School of the Air first began, the lessons were conducted over the RFDSairwaves. Anna Andler recalled that “lessons were a great source of entertainment and amusement for all, who madesure they took their lunch break during our two hours on-air.”

Children under the Kanyanna and Narungi banners at the 2011 sports muster.

Supplementary chapters include a history lesson on the the School of the Air in Australia and Queensland, and the quiet achievers, focusing on critical support networks such as the P&C and VISE tutors.

Did You Know? snippets are sprinkled throughout the book, and one of them perhaps putsthe school’s achievements in perspective.

In 2002, the school choir performed at the ICPA conferenceheld in Charleville. What made this performance different was that no choirmembers actually attended conference but rather all sang via the telephoneat their remote home locations, along with students from The SouthportSchool, who were gathered at their school. The students were accompanied byan isolated SDE student playing the digeridoo from his property near Injuneand the choir teacher conducted the choir from her studio in Charleville.Upon completion of the item, students were able to hear the warm applausefrom the hundreds of conference attendees by phone. This is truly atestament to the schools motto of ‘Divided by Distance, United by Voice.’Jennie and Julie actively workedon the book for about 12 months, fitting it inaround other things going on in their lives.

The bookcanbe purchased for $40 plus a freight cost if applicable, by contacting Annabel Tully at [email protected]杭州m

School history for parliamentary libraryThe book documenting the proud 50-year history of the Charleville School of the Air has made its way as far as Queensland’s parliamentary library, thanks to a donation by local Member, Ann Leahy.

Warrego MP Ann Leahy making a presentation of the history to Katherine Brennan, Parliamentary librarian at the Parliamentary Library.

The school’s first crackly HF radio transmission took place on January 24, 1966, which was celebrated in mid-August with the launch of a book amidst a weekend of celebration that included a reunion, markets, horse races, a trivia night, and a time capsule relaunch.

As a former distance education student, Ms Leahy told Parliament it was a significant milestone for the school, highlighting the importance distance education plays in ensuring all children in Queensland have access to quality education.

She said the book’s donation would allow fellow MPs and visitors to learn more about distance education and the stories that shaped half a century of learning in south west Queensland.

Wild Drover many a year

Paul Finlay inside the Camooweal Drovers Camp.The droving era may mostly have been passed but there is one place in Queensland where the flame still burns strong –the Camooweal Drovers Camp.

The flame is kept alive by Paul Finlay who with his wife Ellen runs theDrovers Camp –literally –as one of the first things he showed the North West Star was how to light a carbide flame.

Carbide lamps, more properly acetylene gas lamps, are simple lamps, Mr Finlay saidthat produce and burnacetylene gas (C2H2) created by the reaction ofcalcium carbide(CaC2) withwater.

A chemistry lesson was one of the many surprises the Drovers Shed has in store for visitors but carbide lamps were in common use before properties hadelectricity.

Paul picked up toasting forks which on closer inspection were beautifully elaborately designed.

“An old fella in Charters Towers made these, if you pull wire back and forth it gets supple and pliable, so you get a couple of pliers and pull them back and forth, it’s a slow hideous job –but it’s a neat bit of work.

The other half of the team at the Drovers Camp Ellen Finlay looks after the office.

Paul said for visitors to get a sense of droving history at the camp, they had to do the tour.

“Otherwise you won’t know what you’re looking at, we’ve got old blokes here who can give a good tour,” he said.

Also pride of place was a big map of northern Australia showing the main droving trails.

“My wife’s grandflather Blake Miller took a mob from Victoria River Downs (NT) from Kidman and brought them down the Murrinji Track and he came down to Headingly Station in 1904,” he said.

It was important to get the terminology right when it came to stock routes.

“We call them stock routes (pronounced ‘rout’) not stock routes (pronounced ‘roots’),” he said.

The shed was built in 2005 though the drover’sfestival has been going since 1997.

“Camooweal was always a big drovers’ town,” Paul said.

“We always had horses and cattle here and next thing you know it was all replaced by road trains.”

An important part of the festival, which happens on the last weekend of August,is the lunch for old drovers in the shed.

“They are getting less and less now, although some of their family are starting to come back now,” he said.

Paul said drovers really knew how to look after cattle.

“I’m not a drover,I used to take a few into Camooweal, nothing much mind, but my father and my three brothers were drovers and so was my grandfather,” he said.

“It might seem hard to people now but we didn’t know any better.”

Travel deals: September 2016

Hit the Great Ocean Road with Scenic. Photo: Roberto SebaABOVE PAR

This package for female golfers from Thailand’s [email protected] Design Hotels & Resorts and Siam Country Club Pattaya gives three nights’ accommodation at the [email protected] Design Hotel Pattaya and a night at the group’s Bangkok property, [email protected] Design Hotel.

You get return private car transfers between the airport and Pattaya, as well as being chauffeured to three golf courses (at each you receive one day’s green fees and clubhouse access). The courses at the Siam Country Club are The Old Course, The Plantation and The Waterside.

The price is THB33,000 (about $1320) a person twin share, available to single travellers for THB55,000 (about $2200).

For bookings email [email protected]杭州m. See siamatsiam杭州mBE SPONTANEOUS

Celebrity Cruises is offering a great, but very last-minute, deal on an 18-night trans-Pacific cruise aboard Australia’s favourite cruise ship: Celebrity Solstice.

Departing Honolulu, Hawaii on September 19, Celebrity Solstice calls at Maui before spending five days at sea as she makes her way down to the Pacific Islands. There, she visits ports of Bora Bora, Papeete and Moorea in French Polynesia before cruising to Auckland and the Bay of Islands in beautiful New Zealand.

Celebrity Solstice will then continue to her summer home port of Sydney, arriving October 8 as the first international summer cruise ship to return for the 2016/17 season.

The price is from $1999 a person. Phone 1800 754 500. See celebritycruises杭州m.auFLY AIR EARLY

Early bird airfare offers are rolling out from the big players, and The Great Singapore Airlines Getaway the latest. It includes promotional fares, such as flights to London from $1387 return, value-adds and prizes.

There are great deals on flights to Europe travelling from March 1 to September 30, 2017, or to Asia from now until February 28, 2017. And they come with the possibility to win prizes such as first-class tickets and shopping vouchers. Also, every flight ticket purchased attracts a $1-a-person twin share Singapore Stopover Holiday package, plus a S$10 KrisShop eVoucher and more if flights are booked at singaporeair杭州m

On sale till September 30. See singaporeairgetaway杭州m

Malaysia Airlines is also on sale, with airfares to Asia on sale until September 19. For instance, fly economy return Sydney to Penang from $682, or from Melbourne from $665.

See malaysiaairlines杭州m  COAST TO COAST SAVINGS

Scenic’s new Endless Wonders of Australia 2017/2018 brochure release comes with early bird offers for bookings made by March 31. They include two flying for the price of one with Qantas on the 23-day Treasures of the West Coast, and the 12-day Top End & Kimberley Spectacular, 17-day South Western Tapestry or 22-day Territory Discoverer & The Kimberley.

In addition, save $500 a couple on the 11-day Victorian Discovery round trip from Melbourne that takes you along the Surf Coast via Geelong, Lorne and the Great Ocean Road to Warrnambool before heading to the spa town of Daylesford and inland Bendigo. It’s $4795 a person twin share if booked by March 31.

Phone 138 128. See scenic杭州m.au  NEW SKI LAND

There’s still plenty of snow in New Zealand’s Southern Alps ski fields and the Queenstown Spring Pass gives unlimited skiing and snowboard riding until the end of season at Coronet Peak and The Remarkables.

With the scheduled closing day of October 2, a last-minute trip with this pass provides unlimited access to all operational lifts at Coronet Peak and The Remarkables from 9am to 4pm, and night skiing at Coronet Peak on Fridays and Saturdays (4pm–9pm) if it’s still going (it is scheduled to finish mid-September).

The price is NZD$299 ($288) for adults and NZD$199 for kids 7-17.

See nzski杭州m/spring-pass

Shipping news: September 2016

Viking Sea is sailing from San Juan.Iceland bound

Lindblad Expeditions has three new cruises to Iceland with various departures in June and August 2017. One is a seven-day “Hot Springs and Icebergs” cruise on National Geographic Explorer, which starts with an exploration of Iceland including its thermal baths and capital, Reykjavik. A plane then takes guests over Greenland’s ice cap, before the Explorer sails along its glacier-lined edge. A 10-day “Wild West Coast” cruise on National Geographic Orion explores Iceland’s Westfjord region and sails among icebergs in the world’s largest fiord system. It, too, takes in Greenland.

Phone 1300 361 012. See expeditions杭州mChoices, choices

Variety Cruises has rolled out new cruises in destinations including Costa Rica, transits of the Panama Canal and the Seychelles. But the new cruises are particularly notable for their focus on the Mediterranean, with offerings in the Greek Islands, Adriatic Sea and Spain, the latter in conjunction with Atlantic-bound Portugal. Next year, Variety’s new mega-yacht Callisto also launches an inaugural Icelandic season. All the new itineraries showcase the company’s intimate yacht-style of small-ship cruising, with the freedom to explore history, culture, cuisine and notable sights in ports on privately guided tours.

Phone 1800 623 267. See discovertheworld杭州m.auBoating life

Le Boat has announced the launch of new Horizon boat models in 2017 for self-boating holidays on Europe’s inland waterways. All the new, larger Horizon models will be built to the same high-spec as the company’s original cruiser but each will either sleep five, seven or nine people. They will feature the same deck area for barbecues and sunbathing, plus spacious indoor lounge areas. The new model boats will travel on the Canal du Midi and Burgundy in France and the Thames in England, as well as in Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.

Phone 1800 118 940. See leboat杭州m.auEuropean explorer

Regent’s just-launched Seven Seas Explorer will be sailing out of London in June 2017 on a couple of interesting northern European itineraries. The 11-night “Discover the Isles” cruise sails around the British Isles to destinations such as Newcastle, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Dublin and Cork, and offers a choice of 43 shore excursions. It will be followed by a 12-night “Baltic Odyssey” to Belgium, the Netherlands and six Baltic countries. Varied shore excursions include sea kayaking, the Russian Ballet, a chocolate-making tour and much more. Three-day, pre-cruise stays in London are also available.

Phone 1300 455 200. See rssc杭州m.auCentral casting

Viking Cruises has two interesting new cruises in December 2017. The 22-day “From the Caribbean to the Amazon” cruise on Viking Sea sails round-trip from San Juan in Puerto Rico through the Caribbean islands and into the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil. Viking Sun is meanwhile the latest ship with Cuba in its sights, with a new itinerary round-trip from Miami that takes advantage of the new Cuban entente. The eight-day “Central American Shores and Cuba” cruise visits five countries and five ports, and notably has an overnight in Havana for two days of exploration.

Phone 1800 131 744. See vikingcruises杭州m.au

Donations, Dastyari and Chinese soft power

The Sam Dastyari case marks a turning point in the political donations debate. Photo: Wolter Peeters ACRI Chairman Xiangmo Huang with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and David Coleman. Mr Huang, a businessman and philanthropist, has donated large amounts to both political parties. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Yuhu Group chief executive Huang Xiangmo and Sam Dastyari at a press conference for the Chinese community in Sydney in June. Photo: Supplied

Dr Zhu with Gillard government foreign minister Bob Carr after being appointed to the Chinese Ministerial Consultative Committee. Photo: TEI


With his long, sticky fingers Senator Sam Dastyari, hotshot of the NSW Labor right machine, this week managed to conflate two of the Australian electorate’s chief concerns, fabricate them into a political weapon and turn it on himself.

The first is growing anger at the propensity of Australian politicians and parties to pocket money from special interests in the form of gifts or donations. The second is the general and growing anxiety about the role of China in the region and its influence on Australian domestic affairs.

Dastyari’s undoing began last week when Fairfax Media revealed that having blown his travel allowance by $1670.82, the young senator contacted a Labor donor to foot his bill: Top Education Institute, a Chinese private higher education provider based in Sydney and run by Australian-Chinese businessman Minshen Zhu.

Dastyari had form. He had previously accepted payment for a legal bill from another prolific political donor, Huang Xiangmo. Worse still, it would surface that back in June he had appeared beside the Chinese property developer pledging support for China’s stance on the South China Sea.

It is worth noting Dastyari had broken no law, no regulation, nor even a norm in Australian politics. Technically he had not even taken a donation, but a gift. He had even properly declared the gift. He was determined to ride out the scandal.

Last Friday though, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, piled on, pointing to quotes in Chinese media suggesting that Dastyari had advocated China’s position on the South China Sea dispute, a position contrary not only to Australia’s stance, but that of our key ally, the United States.

Cash for comment, said the PM.

Still Dastyari was determined to stick it out, hence the disastrous press conference he held on Tuesday this week, the performance that finally undid him.

Asked time and again why he had asked a company to pay his bill, he was unable to give an answer. To anyone watching, the reasonable conclusion was that Dastyari did not pay his bill because he did not want to, because he was greedy, and because Australian politicians simply don’t have to pay bills if there is someone else around willing to – even if that person happens to be a friend of a foreign government.

The following day Dastyari resigned from his frontbench positions.

Australia’s political parties are addicted to cash, particularly donations. Over the past five financial years, the major parties – Labor, Liberal, the Nationals and the Greens – have taken in about $887 million, according to Australian Electoral Commission returns, in public funding, donations, membership fees and fundraising efforts. Donations form a significant portion of this pie, but the exact size is obscured by loose disclosure laws and associated fundraising vehicles.

Prime Minister Turnbull now finds himself under increasing pressure to reform donor laws. Speaking from a series of summits in Asia this week, he reiterated his long-standing personal view that donations would “ideally” be limited to individuals on the Australian electoral roll, striking off corporations, unions and foreign nationals.

“I’ve always felt that would be a good measure,” he said.

Whatever his feelings on the matter, so far the PM has taken little action. He has suggested reforms should be considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, a committee as yet unformed in this Parliament and one that has historically been seen as a paper tiger.

Meanwhile, his ever-enthusiastic predecessor, Tony Abbott, has seized the initiative, calling for sweeping reforms to curb “influence-buying” and “subversion of the system”.

Labor is pushing hard for a ban on foreign donations, and Liberal figures as diverse as Christopher Pyne, Cory Bernardi and Steve Ciobo have thrown their weight behind change in various forms.

Several roadblocks stand in the way of reform, chief among them self-interest (the horse that’s always trying, as Paul Keating once observed). Both Labor and the Coalition rely heavily on corporate cash, and Labor on funds from unions. A Fairfax Media analysis this week showed the major political parties would lose 90 per cent of their high-value donations if donations were limited to individuals on the electoral roll.

Then there is the High Court. The former NSW premier, Barry O’Farrell, (a man brought down by a gift) legislated a comprehensive ban on donations from corporations, unions and other organisations. But the ban was struck down by the High Court following a challenge led by the unions, with the bench ruling that banning certain types of donors was an unjustified burden on political communication.

The case saw Unions NSW and the libertarian Institute of Public Affairs forge an unlikely alliance, and on Friday the IPA railed against Abbott’s prescriptions as an undemocratic, unconstitutional “attack on freedom of speech”.

Critics say any attempt to replicate O’Farrell’s failed reforms nationally would die a similar High Court death, but Adjunct Professor Colleen Lewis of Monash University, who has written a report on the issue, dismisses the concern. “You can just step over the High Court problem,” she says.

Lewis argues that if the size limit on donations was lowered to, say, $1000 or less, you would not have to ban certain types of donors, like developers, because their influence would be no larger than an individual’s.

She does, however, support bans on foreign citizens and entities donating to Australian candidates or parties, which brings us back to Dastyari and China.

This week Dastyari might have felt himself to be at the centre of this story, but in truth he is just a minor cog in a far larger machine of political gift-giving and influence-peddling that China has built to advance its global influence.

Australia’s politicians and political parties took $5.5 million in donations from Chinese-linked firms in the two years to June 2015, according to an ABC analysis of disclosures to the Australian Electoral Commission, and both sides of politics have benefited.

Chief among the donors is property developer Yuhu Group and its chairman Huang Xiangmo.

More than $1 million in donations to both major parties have come from companies and individuals associated with Huang, who uses his position as chair of the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China (ACPPRC) to promote Beijing’s core interests, including lobbying against Tibet and Taiwan independence.

The Bayside Forum, which supports the federal Liberal seat of Goldstein which was held by former trade minister Andrew Robb up until his retirement, received $100,000 from interests linked to Huang, including $50,000 on the day the China-Australia free trade agreement was finalised and announced by Robb and then prime minister Tony Abbott. Robb also endorsed Yuhu’s $2 billion agriculture investment joint venture fund at its launch in September 2014.

And interests linked to Huang donated $280,000 to the Western Australian division of the Liberal Party. Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, the leading federal member of the party in that state, has been effusive in praise of Huang’s contribution to Australia and helped open the Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) at the University of Technology , which was funded by Huang’s $1.8 million donation.

In the end, it was a $5000 payment from Huang to Dastyari to help settle the senator’s legal bills that has claimed a political scalp. Huang was alongside Dastyari as the Labor senator pledged to respect China’s position on the South China Sea during a June federal election campaign press conference.

Even if reforms preventing foreigners from making political donations in Australia were passed, they would have little effect on China’s deployment of soft power on our shores. Many major donors with Chinese government ties, including property and media tycoon Chau Chak Wing, and Top Education’s Minshen Zhu, have long been Australian citizens.

And no tweaking of donations laws would have had an effect on the money Dastyari took, which was a personal gift.

Besides, China has many more weapons in its soft-power arsenal than cash. Chinese government influence can be heard in the voices of Australian business figures who warn that the Australian government’s stance on the South China Sea could damage their business interests in China.

It can be seen in media deals too. Fairfax Media, publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, prints and distributes a monthly news liftout from the China Daily.

And separately, the ABC cut its local Chinese language radio service as it sought a semi-commercial deal to operate in China.

The Chinese government has made its presence felt on university campuses across the country with the establishment of Confucius Institutes, which teach language and culture at discounted rates.

It disseminates research via institutions such as ACRI, which Huang himself chairs and personally appointed former foreign minister and NSW premier Bob Carr to be its director.

From that position, Carr has been enthusiastic in championing policy positions that have coincided with Chinese state views. After the Foreign Investment Review Board blocked the sale of Ausgrid to China, for example, Carr condemned the decision across Australian media.

In response, the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, said Carr had not been privy to the national security briefings he had received and was uttering “complete nonsense”.

“Frankly the former foreign minister should know better,” he said.

In a statement this week Carr told Fairfax Media, “We take an unabashedly positive and optimistic view of the Australia-China relationship. Our position is no different from think tanks in Australia that receive American funding and take an optimistic and positive view of America and the US alliance.”

Carr finds himself bound to this story by Dastyari too.

In February 2012, following the sudden resignation of Mark Arbib from the Senate, Dastyari was able to lure Carr out of political retirement with the offer of not just a Senate seat, but the plum foreign affairs portfolio. Dastyari had joined Carr’s staff the day before he stepped down as NSW premier in 2005. Now he was playing kingmaker.

Both Carr and Dastyari, along with Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen, Liberal elder Philip Ruddock and Barry O’Farrell were listed as patrons of the pro-Beijing ACPPRC which Huang chairs. Both Dastyari and Bowen have since been removed from the council’s website.

Writing in a comment piece for the Global Times last month after an ABC investigation detailed millions Chinese-linked interests poured into Liberal and Labor Party coffers, Huang Xiangmo said the scrutiny smacked of “racism” and blurred the lines between Chinese nationals and Australians of Chinese ethnicity. He rejected suggestions his and other donations had the potential to “skew Australia’s democracy”.

One of Australia’s leading China observers is John Fitzgerald, director of Swinburne University’s Program for Asia-Pacific Social Investment and Philanthropy.

He argues that there is nothing particularly nefarious, nor even that surprising, about China’s broad push for influence in Australia. But he is concerned that some institutions and politicians might be naive in their engagement with Chinese actors.

And the stakes are high, he says. In the short term China would like to use its influence in this country to silence us in the South China Sea debate.

In the long run it hopes to sever our alliance with the United States.