By ERWIN CHLANDA
The annual meeting of the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association is dealing today with issues ranging from the absurd to the visionary.
Under the current Remote Area Travel Allowance Scheme, covering eight trips a year, parents taking their kids to a school or to a departure point such as an airport – and that could be hundreds of kilometres – are not paid for driving back home.
A motion from the Alice Springs branch calls for conservation and land management practices to be taught so students can become park rangers, environmentalists, tourism industry employees and owners as well as pastoralists.
Agricultural should be offered and integrated into the primary and secondary school curriculum: “Some rural and remote NT families would be more inclined to enrol their children in NT boarding schools if agriculture programs were offered,” says the Katherine branch.
The meeting in Katherine is considering advocating that the Interstate Boarding Allowance should be extended beyond occasions when specialist curriculum is not offered at NT primary, middle or secondary schools.
“There are many reasons families choose to send their children to an interstate boarding school, including location of family and extended family, social and emotional support, extracurricular programs, activities offered by the school, preference for a single sex facility, and travel efficiencies such as your proximity to airports with travel options and routes accessible to your family,” was the way the Alice Springs branch put it. The Katherine branch is moving a similar motion.
Alice Springs also wants the Living Away from Home Allowance for all NT boarding students to replace the current supplementary boarding allowance that is limited to students boarding in the NT.
The Katherine branch argues that the government should negotiate for internet providers to supply education ports or unmetered internet allocation for all isolated children accessing distance education for schooling.
“Recently increasing numbers of families have not been provided with satellite internet installations from Schools of the Air necessitating use of their own private connections and consequently these families are bearing the costs of large internet plans and struggling with data usage,” the branch argues.
Katherine is seeking an assurance from the NT Government that it will continue to keep the NT Schools of the Air open, following the “devastating decision, subsequently reversed by the WA government, to close its valuable Schools of the Air”.
States and territories should speed up implementation of a nationally consistent approach to Working With Children Checks, including mutual recognition across borders, following the backlog fiasco of Ochre Card applications at the beginning of this year.
Photo: Ziggy Solczaniuk, School of the Air pupil at Ross River, pictured in 2015.
By ERWIN CHLANDA