Get tough with unruly students: Former Yirara staff


p2214-yirara-website-1By ERWIN CHLANDA
A former Yirara staff member says double standards applied by management to the 14 house parents often causes bad blood.
And the informant, speaking after the disclosure of problems at the college, says: “Management need to be harder on students. That needs to start at the top, with the principal. They are too soft.
“The kids get away with everything,” says the contact who spoke on the condition of not being named.
“The house parents are getting far more respect from the students than the teachers.”
However, some houseparents were given more latitude than others about taking kids out for treats and going on trips, “getting soft drinks or going to MacDonalds”.
Kids often come back from school with stories of unruly conduct while not being a problem in the 14 dorms.
p2214-yirara-website-2“Kids who run amok,” whom the teachers could not handle, were sometimes sent to the dorms for detention under the eye of house parents, although supervising detention is a duty of the teachers.
House parents who “click with the kids” offered the college to assist teachers with stopping bad conduct in the classroom, but that was rejected by the management on the grounds of cost.
Management also declined offers from some house parents – who are doing an “awesome job” – of helping without extra pay.
The contact says there are several possible reason for tensions in the classroom, including promises being broken: “Management never sticks to anything. They say something but it often does not happen. Kids are told they’re going on a trip and then they are not.”
The source says teachers are disobeyed because they are “old-fashioned. They need young teachers, looking to the future”.
When offered the right of reply, Tim Stollznow, chairman of the board of directors of the Lutheran Finke River Mission, which runs the college, said: “Happy to speak with them. If they really wanted to help they would at least speak or contact me.”
IMAGES from the Yirara website.


  1. Kids need discipline, kids need to know boundaries, kids need to know that if a task is set then it has to be done.
    The overemphasis on rewards for something simple that has to be done is destructive.
    On the other hand, if the teachers and bosses are too soft or contradict each other then the kids will pick up on it and play up.
    If rewards are offered for genuine effort but can’t be given for genuine reasons then the kids that play up because of it should be banned from further rewards for quite some time despite improved behaviour.
    The reward of top marks or achieving a personal goal should be reward enough in itself. Holidays are things that are a normal part of life and if they are used to reward students for doing their school work then it leads to trouble.
    The reward of school work should be to get the best job you can and the best pay you can and that should be for rich or poor – and for whatever level the child can attain.
    Kids should be able to adapt to different rules at school and at home. However solid standards in each place should be the norm. One of the big things is to respect authority and each-others possessions along with the rules of each place and each activity.
    Pampered kids make terrible adults. If there is a poor kid in the class then teachers and the other students should not be allowed to ridicule them.

  2. Bev. Most of the students at Yirara do not care whether they are there or not.
    Their families will blame the school if the students are sent home, irrespective of the reason, so they have no family incentive to stay there.
    The students are not looking ahead to get a job. Has anyone ever heard of a Yirara student going in to TAFE or university or holding down a job?
    The students are there for sports, music, food, excursions etc, not at all for an education.
    And if there is too much education they will not be there.
    If students think the College is too hard or someone is picking on them they will find a cultural reason to go home or simply act up until they are sent home or not return by refusing to get on the plane sent to collect them.
    The Yirara students are not used to authority because little is exercised over them in their communities, until they are initiated, so they don’t accept normal discipline at the College.
    Basically the students and their families do not have the commitment to education that would allow discipline at the College.
    By the way, a much more receptive group to teach is the initiated young men and young women.

  3. So I see at least Erwin has cited his pics this time.
    I want to know where this elusive plane is that gets sent to these students?
    Last time I was at Yirara there was no landing strip there and to my knowledge there still isn’t.
    If all motivation for students are removed they then have nothing to aim for.
    And it is great to see the management of the school following what is presumably their EBA and not risking staff burnout by engaging boarding staff over their agreed hours.
    Everyone is an expert, aren’t they.

  4. Communication from Boarding house was restricted and filtered through administration’s request to the teachers. Ongoing issues between students / communities were often played down if not even reported to academic staff.
    [This was] causing riffts in classrooms where educators were unaware of a pattern of behaviour outside of class but still on campus. It is to no surprise treatment.

  5. It is to no surprise that the treatment of the boarding staff from management was poor and similar to what teaching staff received if not worse.

  6. Sally, you’ve obviously got no idea of how Yirara works.
    A few children fly in from the top end and more remote communities but most come in by school bus or the Troopies. Don’t you know Alice has an airport?
    Anyway, the key point is the school is in crisis. Obviously many of the students coming in have not been regular attenders at the community schools and are not at Yirara for the right reason.
    It is also obvious that Yirara is not attracting teachers with experience in indigenous education. Let’s see some action from the Board.

  7. Marie, there has been a break down between the College and communities.
    Ten years ago the College would work closely with community schools and reach agreement about which students were ready for and would survive at Yirara. That is no longer the case.
    Yirara staff will now take just about any student without school agreement.
    They communicate with parents not with other schools but the parents just go along with the College staff.
    All this came to a head a few years back when a community based pastor with the Church attended a Board meeting and criticised them for being out of touch with communities and Aboriginal culture.
    It was a timely warning but nothing was done and the College is now reaping the whirlwind.

  8. I have visited the school on a number of occasions to run study programs. I received great feedback at the time [from] teachers and students.
    The principal at the time was great. She put more hard work on the basics e.g. English, punctuation and so forth.
    They need to be ready to be able to go on an study or work. I know it’s not everyone cup of tea but at least give them a chance, not just playing sport.

  9. @4 Marie: By your sarcastic tone I would’ve thought that you understood my sarcasm.
    For the record, despite my apparent lack of knowledge on Yirara, I do know that one out of 200 students flew in this term. The rest were driven in etc.
    However, I agree that the teachers need to have experience in indigenous education but also need to have an understanding of the students.
    I would hazard to guess these elusive teaching staff from last week’s little story are completely clueless on how to teach while catering to diversity. And if one of them is who I think it is, she failed to let the Alice Springs News Online know that her solution was to bring in elders from the community to flog the kids.
    So it seems like Yirara did the right thing by not having those staff at the school anymore.
    Yet here is Alice Springs News Online is presenting their word as fact.
    If I taught at this school I would be applauding management for trying to give these kids their basic right to an education.
    If my children behaved appallingly and went to a school that persisted in engaging my kids to learn and providing opportunities for change in behaviour, I would be eternally grateful.
    [ED – We reported the views of our sources and gave the college extensive right of reply.]

  10. It is not the job of teachers to teach manners and behaviour, that is the role of parents.
    If parents do not accept this role then they impact on the educational learning of kids with good parents.
    Maybe it’s time for unruly kids to attend a form of boot camp and put them through a very tough love course during a semester break.
    Bad parents should not disadvantage other students by their inability to step up.
    When I raised my boys I ensured they could read do basic maths write to assist them in transition from mum to school.
    I know some good parents but they did not help their kids with the basics prior to starting school and because the kids felt insecure and could not learn.
    They became unruly and aggressive.
    Behaviour therapists need to be in every primary school to assist the kids to establish themselves before entering highschool.

  11. Sally, it would appear your views are in the minority based on the comments for both articles.
    As one comment says “where there is smoke there is fire”. In this instance an out of control blaze destroying the lives of many fine young people and many capable and experienced teachers who are just used as fodder by this college and its administration.
    My association with Yirara goes back many years and over those years many questions have been asked about its ethics, operation and its outcomes for students, but this week VERY serious concerns have been raised by people who have worked at the coal face. They need to be heard! An enquiry needs to be set up and thrown open to the wider community to express their experiences in that particular workplace, to gain a comprehensive overview. Such a discussion and forum has to happen. What is patently obvious is that it is not working and needs to be fixed and quick! Furthermore, Sally, I would suggest care needs to be taken with accusations based on hearsay as often they come back to bite. Truth always prevails!

  12. @2 Janet Brown: You say the parents need to teach their kids manners, behaviors and other stuff – that is the point of understanding.
    This is YOUR understanding for the role of parents. It is in other cultures different so the most of the indigenous.
    Your understanding is not their understanding of “manners”. So in their eyes they are educated. They have an education from their family! Oh yes, their knowledge is huge, the knowledge about their land, the nature, the law and about their family and culture.
    We should forget that these kids are AMAZING! Seriously! Students who don’t have always a good behavior are at Yirara but also all over Australia, Europe, America, Asia and Africa. There are always students who do not listen to the teacher, just in another way.
    Most people expect that they live and behave like white people, but they forget there is a completely different background they grew up in a different way there parents and grandparents and grand grandparents grew up in a different way.
    Would you come on the idea that you want to go to school, study and work when you don’t see this from your family, only from some. You see it from white fellas. To study means to be away from family for a long time and family is so important.
    About the money thing: yes there are flights that cost a lot of money and fly back empty. But on the other side how much money does Australia get from all these mines (most of them are of course in indigenous land). Take stuff and sell stuff that doesn’t belong to themselves.
    Respect to all the staff who work at Yirara and to all the students who attend Yirara doesn’t matter for how long.
    I have a dream that all the white fella see how amazing and wonderful indigenous people are and recognize them on their land.


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