Yirara: Rebellion and failure or meeting a challenge?

p2214-Yirara-6By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

“Banging doors, breaking windows, throwing furniture, ‘f… you’ before they even come through the door. Throwing rocks at doors and classroom windows which are boarded up so the kids can’t attract their friends to come out and keep them company” while lessons are under way.

 

This account of student behaviour from someone who taught at Yirara College last year is alarming, although the college rejects some of the allegations in this report.

 

But trouble is only half the story. The other half is that many children arrive at Yirara with a scandalously inadequate primary school education, and socially unprepared for residential secondary education: the boarding school for Aboriginal students is expected to deal with young people in their formative years, many from most difficult backgrounds.

 

The Alice Springs News Online spoke with two teachers who worked at Yirara last year. Both are experienced professionals.

 

They make it clear they are keen to trigger a debate about improvements. They spoke to the News on condition of not being named, but after contributing to this report, have offered to meet with Tim Stollznow, chairman of the board of directors of the Lutheran Finke River Mission, which runs the college.

 

In a nutshell, the teachers say the Yirara students’ primary school education on their communities mostly ranges from very little to not very much.

 

Most have no idea what awaits them when they travel, sometimes by charter aircraft, to the residential college in Alice Springs, fitted out with a new uniform and some books.

 

There are some keen, motivated Aboriginal students who are asking for a quality education.

 

But some have foetal alcohol syndrome.

 

Many are physically and mentally neglected.

 

Some are unfamiliar with basic hygiene practices.

 

Many have never been away from their close-knit families.

 

Many have no hope of absorbing a mainstream program.

 

For more than half, English is their second or third language.

 

p2214-Yirara-spiderOnce they arrive at Yirara they are bundled together into a class to be taught, sometimes, by a young teacher without any specialist knowledge, and no support for dealing with the range of unusual problems.

 

Mr Stollznow disagrees. He says the kids are “not always” bundled together: “We have different teaching options.”

 

He says there are multiple teachers per class, at least a teacher and a teacher’s aide.

 

“We have regular cultural and specialist training and personal development programs. Just last month we welcomed Pat Ansell Dodds from Flinders University for in-service cultural awareness training for all staff, and we have support for dealing with the range of unusual problems.”

 

According to My School for 2013 Yirara (which also has a campus at Kintore) is a $6m a year operation. Almost all money came from the NT and Federal governments. 2014 was much the same, says Mr Stollznow.

 

In 2013 Yirara had 223 students enrolled, slightly more boys than girls. The number for 2015 is expected to be 250.

 

All of Yirara’s students are Aboriginal.

 

All of them – that’s 100% – are in the bottom quarter of achievement measured by My School.

 

A simple calculation raises the question of cost-benefit: each of the 140 students why by My School’s calculation were actually attending in 2013 cost the taxpayer $42,000.

 

The corresponding figure for St Philip’s College, is $17,000. All kids at Yirara are full-time boarders, only some at St Philip’s. “Over half our costs are boarding,” says Mr Stollznow.

 

St Philip’s had an attendance of 92% in 2013, according to My School. Yirara’s was 63%.

 

Mr Stollznow describes the two teachers’ statements the News is quoting as “inflammatory comments from disgruntled staff members which are terribly exaggerated”.

 

Both teachers say the children’s massive misconduct not only threatens the physical safety of students and staff, it makes normal teaching all but impossible.

 

Usually there is only one man (Mr Stollznow says there are more) whom teachers under attack can call for help. Some classrooms have a button to sound an alarm. Other classrooms do not, say our contacts.

 

There are no serious consequences for misconduct.

 

“Untrue, we have a comprehensive program to support and discipline students,” says Mr Stollznow.

 

“Some kids get sent home, stuck in a Troopy, back to the community. It’s not a rare event,” says one of the teachers speaking with the News.

 

p2214-Yirara-7Mr Stollznow explains the low attendance rate at Yirara: “It could be because of men’s [ceremonial] business, sorry camp, excursions.

 

“Some kids are sent home because they played up, or they are homesick.”

 

The winding back of secondary education in the bush has clearly been a factor in increased student numbers this year, likely to escalate the problems, say our sources.

 

Counters Mr Stollznow: “Yirara’s enrollments are up because more families are trusting Yirara to provide a good learning environment for their children.”

 

“Last year we had 200 kids enrolled and we didn’t manage to keep under control the 50 or 60 who actually turned up,” said the one of the teachers.

 

“If they all turned up it would be an explosive situation.”

 

The greater numbers will put further pressure on the staff which is confronting unusual teaching demands for which, generally, they do not have the specialist training.

 

“They are dealing with a culture they do not understand.”

 

Mr Stollznow: “We have added 11 staff this year due to increased numbers.”

 

About half the staff resigned at the end of last year, burn out and disgust high amongst the reasons, say the two teachers: “Several good teachers left. Their skills were not acknowledged.”

 

Mr Stollznow: “This is simply not true, 10 out of 80 odd staff left, including three who were out of contract.”

 

Frequently the situation in the classrooms is intolerable: Students will simply not do as they are told, say our sources.

 

The “f” and “m-f” words are part of the normal discourse: “Every teacher is exposed to this. Admin does nothing about it.”

 

Several teachers have been physically attacked. One teacher was threatened by a girl student to be hit over the head with a hammer. Throwing chairs, pulling things off shelves are common, say the teachers.

 

Kids leave classrooms at will, enter other classrooms in search of mates, with whom they are likely to roam the grounds at will or fight running battles, say our sources.

 

“Obligations to friends are much greater than the learning process.”

 

Maintenance men are continually fixing locks, lights, graffiti, dumped rubbish. A teacher’s house on the grounds loaned to a family was trashed, made uninhabitable.

 

“One day 60 kids were running around the complex, fighting and vandalising.”

 

“You can’t teach when 80% to 90% of the students are running interference.”

 

Apparently in a bid to maximise revenue the college allows students to arrive well into the term, as kids don’t turn up at the bush airstrips for their trip to Alice and fresh transport needs to be arranged: “Last year there was a continuous intake, until about week seven in the last term of the year.

 

“That’s crazy. You cannot teach if you do not have a cohort that is the same. You can’t run a program.”

 

One student’s attitude to the college, where he is fed, entertained and given clean clothing, is typical, says one of the teachers: “I like cinema, football and sports at Yirara. But I hate school.”

 

Our sources say behaviour management by a student support officer consists of counseling kids who are out of line, relying on “some airy fairy relationship building.

 

“We must show good will, we’re told. And if that doesn’t work, we need to show more good will.”

 

The problems, say our sources, mostly start at the bush communities: parents see Yirara as a place where girls can be safe from sexual assaults, and boys can stay out of trouble.

 

“For others it’s a marriage market. They are here to get a man. They’re just 12 years old, calling out to boys.”

 

There is clearly some expectation of sexual activity – visits to the opposite gender’s dormitory block, which has rooms with four to six beds – but there is very tight security by the house masters, for whom the students have more respect than the teachers, say our sources.

 

p2214-Yirara-paradeMany parents complain that they are sending good kids to Yirara and get bad kids back.

 

Some now send their kids to St Philip’s.

 

“Most kids do not understand what is required from them when they go to school,” says one of the teachers.

 

“Before we accept them they should be tested in their home communities to see if they are capable of attending.

 

“Trashing a school can be regarded a cultural obligation out bush. If they are not school-ready there is no point sending them to Yirara. They have no way of connecting to Yirara.

 

“Their academic English may not be adequate to understand what they are being taught. Their communicative English is not enough.”

 

Yirara had just one Aboriginal teacher’s aide last year. The sources say she resigned,  Mr Stollznow says she didn’t.

 

“Where are Indigenous support staff?” asks one of the teachers.

 

Mr Stollznow says it is very difficult to get qualified Aboriginal staff.

 

“We have an Indigenous advisory council whose chairperson sits on the committee of management,” he says.

 

That Aboriginal staff have to be formally qualified is a furphy, says one of the teachers.

 

“How many of the teaching assistants in the bush have formal qualifications? They can be trained on the job. They have more cultural knowledge to draw on than any white person could have.”

 

There are no special programs such as for the significant number of kids affected by foetal alcohol syndrome, say the teachers.

 

“We have programs, would love to have more, but cannot get the funds,” says Mr Stollznow.

 

Say the teachers: “There is enormous cultural resistance to learning English – ‘I don’t want to be white. I don’t acknowledge your language.’

 

“If they are not teachable, send them home. They are sending us a message, we don’t want to be there.

 

“What’s the point of having students if you can’t teach them?”

 

Kids go AWOL: “They head to the town camps, they may make it back home out bush, someone will get them back to their community.

 

“Homesickness is endemic.”

 

Mr Stollznow says: “We do have students from time to time who misbehave. Kids can get angry and disruptive, we’ve had to send kids home.”

 

p2214-Yirara-5But he claims the two teachers, whose identity the News did not reveal, are “people wanting to make mischief. Much is simply not true.

 

“There are many good things we are doing.”

 

The News asked for permission to spend a day at the college, from before breakfast to after dinner, to gather first-hand information, and talk to staff and students. We wanted to be able, within reason, to roam the college at our discretion. Of course we were happy to be in the company of a staff member.

 

Despite his assurance he had nothing to hide, this was rejected by Mr Stollznow, who is based in Adelaide, saying he wants to show us around when he visits the college next month.

 

The News declined to take part in a stage-managed tour.

 

One of the teachers we spoke with said: “There is a lack of direction and purpose. It’s a dangerous work place.

 

“There is no strategy, we just have to put up with whatever shit those kids dish out, as one of the staff put it.

 

“What future are we building for them – especially those who are keen to learn. Is this the best we have to offer?”

 

PHOTOS: The good and the bad: Messages of rebellion, and joining the community in an Alice Festival parade six years ago.

 

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26 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Michael INDO
    Posted May 18, 2017 at 3:28 am

    Aboriginal kids are naturally practical people. The system works best when practical activities are practiced hands on, visual: Youtube to explain information, draw diagrams, act it out, teach maths using musical instruments, think outside the box, and your half way there.
    The other half is the student.
    Does this interest them? Which is their favourite activity, from a young age, take note on what the student is naturally good at, gifted, passionate about, then align a career that’s a perfect suit.
    Truancy: Create a new vision of school.
    School is a place of safety, where they can always come to.
    They belong there, they have a home.
    Have a space where kids can sleep during the day.
    If they sleep at all day it’s OK.
    Have video games that educate.
    Teach them art – drama, rythem and dance.
    Kids need love, lessons to respect themselves.
    A voice to be heard and inspiration.
    They need to remember who they are, light their talents and show them better.

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  2. Tjilpi
    Posted December 13, 2015 at 10:15 am

    I believe there may be worse yet to come with the current Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse investigations that are occurring involving Yirara College.
    Much of the commentary above is centred on the ‘ADELAIDE’ involvement in the college and in time this interference may be questioned at the Commission.
    Yirara College was once a wonderful place to be as a staff member.
    It was a wonderful place to be as a student, many of whom are now adults in their own communities and who spent their formative years growing up with an educational perspective that provided opportunities for them to excel in their culture, in the white fellas way and importantly in their own way going forward, just like any student at any college.
    This all appeared to change in the late nineties when a purge of the college’s internal management took place, executed from Adelaide and, from then on the cracks in a once great place appeared.
    May I say to all those great educators and auxiliary staff out there who will read these comments, THANK YOU ALL for what you gave and for those of you who are currently surviving the reported crisis, in the words of Dave Allan, “May your God be with you.”

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  3. Dave
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 6:57 am

    Thanks Shirley. From my experience your insights are spot on. As you say: “The reluctance to face reality and actually address the issues does no one a service, not the students or the teachers.”
    If it is too hard for the Finke River Mission to address, find someone else who can.

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  4. GBC
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    What’s new? Charter planes and buses being sent out and coming back empty or partially full has been going on for years. The account goes in, gets paid and who really cares.
    Just more tax money being thrown around, one just has to be in the right place to catch some of it. Keeps the Territory going!

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  5. Shirley
    Posted February 24, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    It has been interesting to see comments from people who obviously have little experience in dealing with the educational situation in the communities.
    Jeff has hit the nail on the head with his description of the charter flight situation. Where I was, charter planes often flew away empty, having cost about $8000 to bring in, because the intended passengers were off on some social or cultural outing, or because the parents, supposedly at the airstrip to say goodbye to their children, kept yelling at them in language until they all got off the plane.
    Many Indigenous parents really don’t want their children to go away. If the young ones go and see the world outside, there’s always the chance that they won’t come back and that marks the end of the tribe.
    Sally may be right in saying that all children have the right to an education, but how it’s currently done is not necessarily the best way for it to happen with Indigenous students.
    The grouping of students into formal classrooms overlooks the cultural requirement for certain skin names and tribal groups not to be together, and the expressed outrage at the sexual contact between male and female students denies the reality that girls in the communities are married at a very young age, usually by the time they are 14 or 15, so for them to be looking for a partner at the ages of 10 to 13 is only to be expected.
    Until there is a cultural shift in attitude on both sides of the equation, the whole Indigenous education system is a black hole for taxpayers’ money, and little is likely to change.
    Putting teachers who have no experience with Indigenous culture into a classroom full of Indigenous students is a recipe for stress-related compensation claims – more taxpayers’ money down the drain.
    However, how the teachers are in-serviced in cultural awareness is currently woefully inadequate. Often, the Indigenous instructors hired to provide an insight into cultural practices are not of the same tribal background as many of the students, so the information being provided might be relevant to only a small group.
    Aboriginal people are as different from each other as the French and Germans, and many of them share the same animosities towards their neighbouring tribes as some of the European countries.
    It isn’t appropriate to ship them in from multiple communities to a central location and expect that they will all “get on”.
    “The Gap” that white politicians keep talking about is only a gap viewed from the white perspective – from the Indigenous perspective, there isn’t any gap – there are just annoying requirements that interfere with the way they might prefer to live.
    Education as it is managed now only works if the aspirations of the end products include jobs and financial security.
    Those aren’t the priorities for most Aboriginal students, who know that they will go back to a community where their chances of getting a job are about zero.
    That also needs to change – sit-down money handed out through welfare and mine royalties has all but destroyed the communities.
    For the unemployed, there is little to do other than drink and gamble, and the sit-down money provides the wherewithal to do just that.
    The lack of banking services in communities, and the need to spend any money before it can be skived off by the hangers-on, means that every time there is a mine royalties distribution, the communities’ kids are dragged out of school and disappear for several weeks until the money is spent.
    They might come back, or they might end up enrolled in another school, or not enrolled at all for a while. Teachers can’t perform miracles, and they can’t teach empty chairs, so it’s no surprise that many of the students who end up at Yirara are woefully ill equipped to deal with a secondary education situation.
    The reluctance to face reality and actually address the issues does no one a service, not the students or the teachers.

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  6. Paul Parker
    Posted February 23, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    Using “Indigenous” schools, departments and Portfolio Ministers will not fix the problems.
    The problems are not “Indigenous” problems.
    The problems are lack of development, lack of education, lack of employment, resulting in so many with lack of understanding how things work in wider world.
    Segregationist policies and approaches from Commonwealth, States, Territories, Departments, well-wishers, create or exacerbate these problems, they are not solutions.
    Usage of term “Indigenous” is the racist approach to the problems, ignore actual identifiable problems, instead identify those failing, then racially “tag” them as the problem.
    Many “Indigenous” communities remain structurally unable to access conventional funding to develop within their communities, mostly result from being side-lined due politicians racial “tag” actions.
    Over a century ago schooling became compulsory, “Aboriginals” became a useful political crutch to avoid educating many.
    Such racist “tag” games are exactly what Australians voted overwhelmingly to extinguish in 1967.
    Why are the rejected old excuses for children not attending school, still today being accepted?
    The rejected excuses are acceptable only because governments and others abuse them to ignore consequences, when these children grow up, they blame them for being victims.

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  7. Dave
    Posted February 23, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Where there is smoke there is fire and lots of it. It takes a bigger person to accept that there are real issues to be addressed and with some urgency.
    C’mon Tim, why not step up to the task, confront the issues, consult with people and move Yirara forward to the space it should be in. Perhaps the church needs to have some more involvement.

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  8. Waka
    Posted February 22, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    I worked at Yirara College for a number of years but have also had many years experience of working “in the bush”.
    It grieves me to read this article.
    My memories of the Yirara College community was one of safety and security. It is very hard to explain to outsiders the reason how and why Yirara College operates the way that it does. For most students, Yirara College will offer safety, security and a place to learn and grow both academically and spiritually.
    There are many questions and comments made by readers of this article but the answers to these questions are very complex.
    My memories were that parents were very keen and motivated for their children / grandchildren to have a good education, and to learn white man’s ways.
    However, their cultural tools in encouraging children to go to school are very limited. Traditionally children were given independence and were served on by the parents. For Aboriginal parents, it is simply not easy to make your child go to school if they do not want to go.
    We have moved people in a relatively short period of time from a nomadic lifestyle toward a sedentary lifestyle of large communities where food is sought out of the local store.
    We have given them what we believe is an incredibly generous amount of money to provide for this food and other needs. The truth is far from this. They can mostly only afford a poor diet which will lead to health problems.
    They have few budgeting skills and those that do choose to spend their money wisely will have many mouths to feed.
    This is perpetuated by those addicted to alcohol and now those addicted to drugs. These problems are endemic in most communities around the world that fit this description.
    Lots of children in Aboriginal communities will not fare well at school. Many communities have people from different cultural groups. They are expected by us to live and learn together.
    This will inevitably lead to teasing which will in turn lead to truancy. There are other reasons that are complex and difficult for us to understand.
    My recollection is that parents loved to send their children to Yirara College and wanted the safety and the security for their children, that Yirara College provided. This was the primary reason why parents would send their children to Yirara College.
    Families send their children to Yirara College for good reasons. Also, Yirara College has recruited children for good reasons. Yirara College, as I recall, went out to all the Aboriginal communities that would allow them to in the hope of enrolling students to offer them a better education. End of story.
    Everything in the Aboriginal community has been expensive, not just education. My recollection is the the Finke River Mission has always been a very accountable organisation that spends wisely and takes pride in good accountable money management.
    I also clearly recall the wonderful and regular cultural education that was provided by the school. To an outsider, Yirara College might be a strict school, but to people with an understanding of “anangu way” Yirara College offered and I hope still offers a safe environment where children / young people can be educated both academically and spiritually.

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  9. Herbert
    Posted February 22, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    I’m sure this isn’t the first time Yirara has been brought in to question.
    I thought I could remember seeing something on Four corners or the 7.30 report so I googled it! Sure enough 7.30 report did something. And a news article came up in the search as well.
    Who is on there denying everything? The same gentleman who is denying these reports, Tim Stollznow. Why isn’t this being investigated at a National and Territory level?
    Why are the Lutheran Church and the Government departments burying their heads? This is our TAX payers’ money. People need to be held to account!

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  10. Sunny
    Posted February 22, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Dear Disgusted at Yirara: Yes, this has been going on for years. The Finke River Mission Board have been informed what their Chairman has wanted them to know. This may be the problem? Who knows.
    All students have the right to education as Sally says. I go further – all students have the right to be educated in a SAFE environment.
    May I add that all staff have the right to work in a safe place too.
    The staff that work in such a place, do so out of a love of the students, a passion to help them, and educate them. Whether they be teachers, houseparents or maintenance people.
    No staff would turn up day after day, month after month if it were not for this.
    Please don’t put the staff down, Sally. Look further up the chain of command.

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  11. Ray
    Posted February 22, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Hi Erwin, I cannot fathom the comments from @Sally. Yirara dodged a bullet with these teachers.
    I think exposing the sham that exists by these teachers was an incredibly brave thing to do. All the money that is wasted hand over fist, especially on charter flights (nothing new here) could be spent on areas that could really use it, not to sustain a false perception.
    And talk about dodging, seems Sally is dodging the real issue here by asking about talent release forms. She really has no idea about what she is talking about.
    The students shown at the college are unidentifiable, so no need for a release form, and the other photos identifying the students are in a public place, so once again no release needed.
    This sort of blame shifting, head in the sand attitude is what will prevent the gap from ever closing.

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  12. Perce
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Given the Alice Springs News Online is doing the great service of shining a light on Yirara’s culture, could we go further: will Yirara be compelled to return any funding it gouges for enrolling students just before census day, then letting them go straight after?
    Will any of that funding be redirected towards the other schools which look after these students 10 or 11 months of the year but receive no funding because on census day they have been poached by Yirara?
    And, most importantly, what sort of overseeing is the Lutheran Church doing? How does the Yirara culture match up with the Lutheran ethos, and what is being done to pull it into line?
    Once again, thank you Erwin for shining a light where other media seem afraid to go. It is a great public service.

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  13. Marie
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 10:55 am

    A timely article exposing the total failure of education in indigenous remote communities culminating in the mayhem as reported.
    Erwin and the two teachers are like prophets calling in the desert. I hope it leads to some honest investigations.

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  14. Jeff
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Harold and Janet Brown,
    The idea that the bush kids can attend public schools is a myth.
    A few years ago attendance officers started rounding up kids and bringing them to what was then ASHS. It was a disaster for many of the same reasons described in the article.
    Just a small group of the bush students basically melted down whatever class they were in.
    Teachers, parents and the principal united in opposition and the attendance officers were persona non grata. Bush kids were refused entry.
    Then ASHS set up a special Aboriginal unit catering to a small number of bush students, about eight students were staffed by a teacher and an Aboriginal assistant.
    The teacher of the unit complained (much like the dissident Yirara teachers) that the students got away with too much and he received no support from the principal.
    He was a good teacher but then an allegation was made against him that he had manhandled an (out of control) student.
    He resigned rather than be subjected to disciplinary proceedings and the Territory lost another fine teacher.

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  15. Harold
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Could there not be a boarding transition type school for community folk? They could then remain in boarding, but be deployed to public schools at the year level they’ve been assessed at.
    Continue to provide support and guidance and if the student sticks with it and completes their secondary education, even if a couple of years late, then it’s a win.
    Or like other students, they might divert to a trade or whatever.
    I’ve always thought the education system was about the result, but in the modern day, it’s probably about the process and ticking a few boxes while churning the numbers through a failing system.

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  16. Frankly
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 8:47 am

    Have we hit rock bottom, yet? A common question amongst staff.

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  17. Bev
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 3:00 am

    Another good idea is to take photographs and show it like it really is. I know the Aboriginals would resist this but if all of them would behave in a decent respectful manner it would not be necessary.
    It really is time they learnt to behave decently – let their culture be taught at home but if they want white people’s privileges then they have to obey the law like white people. Give them the option of behaving or take everything away from them.
    It may seem harsh but all other races and colours have to do it why can’t they. Actually the Aboriginals are being used to get some white people financial security. If they continue to segregate the Aboriginals from everyone else and everyone else’s law then the Aboriginals are going to suffer. Respect has to be both ways – a thing that has not been up to now.
    The ones doing the sorry business and making the Aboriginals sound like they are special are really out to cause trouble while gaining themselves. That comes from someone who has experienced both sides of the coin.

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  18. Bev
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 2:47 am

    Nothing worse the staged visits from interstate people who know nothing of what goes on here.
    Yes, time for total integration of students everywhere – time to forget the difference in colour and race and demand that everyone is treated the same. Time to get under one flag and say that we are all are Australian.
    If they continue to treat the Aborigines as if they are something special then they actually are doing them a disservice. They like everyone else should be responsible for their own actions.
    The original tribe system actually did teach to respect each other’s property. I see the Aboriginal kids who want to make it doing really well – and their parents should be proud of them but the ones causing trouble should be dealt with to to the full extent of the law.
    Like with white kids, get them when they are really young, make them stay at school all day.
    They should be treated all alike so they grow up strong decent men and women. Get away from treating them like imbeciles.
    The trouble lies in the fact that the money making machine made by the sorry business has caused more damage than good.
    I wonder how Sally would feel if she were at the receiving end of the abuse of some of these students when they decided to start throwing stones.
    Not everyone can handle them.
    Patronising the Aboriginals actually causes the young ones to rebel.
    The same goes for the rich white kids who because they are rich think they can do what they like. They see their parents abuse people because they have money, then grow up to copy what they see.

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  19. Disgusted at Yirara
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    This has been going on for years and they have been trying to silence the voices of those wanting to tell the truth. Finally they cannot hide it anymore. You will not silence the truth anymore.
    This guy, Tim Stollznow, wants everyone to bury their heads in the sand and for him to keep getting paid from his cushy office in Adelaide.
    How about you get into those classrooms, Tim, and experience first hand what these teachers go through every day?
    To the teachers and teacher aids and support staff – stay strong, support each other and do what is best for you, your family and your own mental health.

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  20. Dave
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    It appears that nothing has changed, and as a previous staff member, the feedback I receive from time to time would indicate that the situation may have worsened.
    In my time staff and their wellbeing generally were not well regarded, nor did they feel supported.
    The indigenous council members do their best under the circumstances, however I concluded during my experience that the problems were management related and it is the responsibility of the Finke River Mission Board to consult more with staff and to be prepared to accept the need for change.
    If you do what you always did – you get what you always got.

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  21. Sunny
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    How many heads can be buried in the sand at the same time, and for how long? This story is just telling it how it was, and obviously still is.
    It is sadly telling the truth. This is just showing how none of those who are really responsible for the running of the school, know what to do to make it better.
    Or maybe they do, but are too afraid to.
    It would be interesting to know how many years of service of good teachers and staff members have been lost over the last four years.
    So much knowledge and experience in teaching indigenous adolescents from remote communities.

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  22. Jeff
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Yes Perce, Yirara thinks nothing of taking kids who are already enrolled and doing well in other schools.
    Yirara staff work on the parents of these kids, they emphasise that Yirara is a Christian school and Aboriginal parents are usually taken in by that.
    Often the students poached in this way do not work out at Yirara and are sent home.
    The tragedy is that the kids don’t return to their original school, it is too shameful to do so after failing at Yirara.
    They never attend school again.

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  23. Janet Brown
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    As I have said many times, money is being throw at social experiments that promote race divide.
    Our kids should be at schools that are engaging in social inclusion.
    There are hidden failures and cover ups to ensure funding for failed experiments. Outcomes, people, outcomes.
    And no more segregation.
    Our future is our kids and they need to work together to reach goals for their kids and ensure a future for us all.

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  24. Perce
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    There is another issue that has not been mentioned here. Yirara is notorious for seeking out and enrolling kids – who are already enrolled in other schools – just before the annual school census, then getting rid of them afterwards.
    This boosts Yirara’s funding significantly because they are then funded for students who are immediately deemed “troublemakers” and sent back to home communities. It is cynical and exploitative.

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  25. Jeff
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    The cost to the taxpayer of $42,000 a year per attending student at Yirara understates the total costs.
    It is very common for a charter plane to visit a remote community to collect Yirara students only to find that they don’t want to get on the plane.
    This refusal often had nothing to do with cultural obligations, it could be that something of interest is happening in the community or the students stayed up late watching TV the night before so are too tired to go.
    A few days latter families will ring the college and ask them to collect the students again, and the college will dutifully send another charter plane.
    Similarly a student who wants to leave the college for any reason will act out and soon be on the way home. A sports occasion such as a football match or just about anything justifies more charter flights to send the students home and collect them later on.
    There are now colleges all over Australia and Territory Aboriginal students can attend any of them. These colleges are in fierce competition for students.
    A student from Yirara may decide that a college in Victoria or Queensland offers more excitement so they will pull out of Yirara and be chartered to the new college of their choice.
    Because Yirara College is desperate for students to attend, it runs dozens of charter flights a year, chasing up students.
    Many come back empty or half full and are a waste of money.
    The situation now is that the students are a scarce commodity, they are in charge and attend the college when they want to, not when they need to in order to get an education.
    The cost of each charter flights are at least $2000, whether or not they are successful in collecting students.
    Travel for each Yirara student would average $10,000 a year making a total expenditure of $52,000 a year.

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  26. Sally
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    It seems like Yirara dodged a bullet with these teachers.
    All children have a right to an education and some of the comments these teachers have made are appalling and borderline on prejudism.
    I would also like to know how those images were obtained, were talent release forms sought from the school to publish?
    My guess is no.

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