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]上海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.