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Diary of 2018 Visit to the Kimberley

Another inspirational and rewarding visit to the Kimberley! This time we were able to spend 12 action-filled days travelling across the vast East, Central and West Kimberley region. Each year we journey to the area’s different communities to speak with students, teachers and parents about the WEST scholarship program. We visit schools large and small – from 8(?) to 500 students – 15 in total this time.

The WEST program is having an intake gap year in 2019 but we visited the Kimberley anyway to look towards potential students for 2020. We love to visit the schools, and of course it’s a wonderful chance to catch up with the families of current students, including up-and-coming sisters and brothers who may be inspired by a sibling’s experience in Melbourne.

We were fortunate to visit Yiyili school, our first time visiting an AICSWA, (Aboriginal Independent Community Schools of WA). This is a third category of school in the Kimberley after Education Department and Catholic schools. The independent schools were established around 30 to 40 years ago by local communities with the specific focus to be on-country schools using the local language and culture. But at the same time they are registered/licensed with the Education Department and must meet performance and accountability standards set by the Department each year. The curriculum that is taught is the standard one. The schools do not finish at primary level but can go on to secondary level right through to Year 12.

We were also able to spend the morning at Purnululu school, one kilometre off the Great Northern Highway on a winding dirt road up the Frog Hollow Creek valley. BEWARE trying to find it! The turnoff is almost impossible to pick. It is 500m south of the Frog Hollow Creek crossing, notable because it is a one way, single lane bridge. A worthwhile visit to a very small school that is nevertheless growing (currently at 48 students).

The insights and quirks of the journey (REMEMBER! TURN RIGHT AT THE SIGN TO GO-GO STATION FOR BAYULU SCHOOL!) are invaluable, there is nothing like this trip to understand and appreciate the unique challenges and particular adversities that local communities can face. We’ve been going to the Kimberley for nine years and are now meeting many familiar faces on our travels, forging relationships and understandings around the WEST program.