Not going the distance

Two children walking in the bush
Many rural kids are taught through Distance Education as they cannot physically attend school. Photo: Olivia Ford.

Rural families have been disappointed by the State Government’s decision to reject funding to help compensate them for the costs of home education.

Currently, families who live on rural and remote properties are tasked with helping their children learn through distance education.

In instances where both parents need to be working, some families hire a home tutor who travels to their isolated properties, but not all families can afford hired help.

The Isolated Children and Parents Association, a group has pushed for a DETA to financially help families hire home tutors, or hire workers to help around the property if a parent decides to teach in the classroom.

The ICPA has campaigned for funding on a state and federal level since 1993, with the organisation reigniting the push for funding this year after the latest federal conference.

However, in response to ICPA’s newest request for a DETA, a spokesperson for the WA Government said the funding will not be provided.  

A State Government Spokesperson said support is already given through the five schools of the airs located in Meekatharra, Kalgoorlie, Port Hedland, Kimberly and Kalgoorlie, as well as the School of Isolated Distance Education located in Perth. 

“The Education Department also provides the Boarding Away from Home Allowance, which is available to families with children who are living away from the primary family residence,” they said. 

ICPA says rural children need in-classroom support. Photo: Olivia Ford.

ICPA Goldfields Eyre Branch president Tallaya Wood said she was disappointed by the decision. 

“An allowance to help teach our kids is of utmost importance, not only to an equitable education for our children but also in terms of keeping families together in outback, rural and remote jobs,” she said. 

“For many family-run places, it can be incredibly difficult financially.

“There are a lot of us who don’t own our own station, and work for other people … if you are working for somebody else and trying to educate your kids, it becomes very difficult and, in the end, a lot of families leave the bush.”

Wages differ, but the average cost of a home tutor ranges from $600 to $700 a week.

The DETA would give $6000 a year to each family. 

Hannah Bridge, a governess working on Mt Jackson station, said not only does having a home tutor ease the workload for parents, but it’s a good experience for children who don’t get a chance to see new people. 

Ms Bridge said there is a big learning curve that can be missed for kids who do not have home tutors. 

“They get that experience of what it’s like to have a teacher.”

Hannah Bridge
Pictured From Left to Right: Doug, Alby, Tessa & Heidi Vernon with their Governess, Hannah Bridge. Provided by Tina Vernon

Ms Wood said despite the Education Department’s stance, the ICPA will most likely keep pushing.

 “We’ll keep working with the government and other lobby groups until we come up with a solution that best fits us all.”