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Dream Quest One Third Writing Prize Winner
Summer 2006
Rebecca Burge
of Queensland, Australia
Distance Has No Barrier

The majority of people don’t think twice about education, it’s just a matter of sending our kids off to school by 9.3Oam and picking them up at 3.3Opm. But for some of us it is all we think about. Those of us who are rural or isolated have no other option than to educate our children ourselves. This form of education is called Distance Education where “distance holds no barriers” as the Charters Towers School of Distance Education, pronounce in their motto.


Twice a year a number of these children, from the Charters Towers School will meet and camp at the Ewan country racetrack for three days of formal schooling with their real teachers. It is also a chance to renew their friendships with the students whose voices they only hear on their half hour daily phone lessons.


It is a very special and unique time for these students. Try and picture a single room, at home, with a desk and computer and maybe a couple of brothers or sisters, not necessarily school age, with Mum attempting to come across as a teacher and not a mother for six hours of the day. Here you have the form of schooling, which exists for these children.


Therefore to arrive at Ewan and meet up with all their friends and come face to face with their teachers is a very exciting experience for these bush kids. It’s a time when we revert back to mothers and can share our experiences together and learn we are not the only ones with certain problems or difficulties.

One special quality these bush children have is their ability, at all ages, both
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boys and girls, to mix and play well together. These kids hold no forms of discrimination and are very accepting of people for who they are.


The camping area is permanently set up for the once a year race meet with a few dongas (transportable rooms) and a large open shed for cooking and meal times. The school has permission to use this camp and the majority of us with the bigger families set up our tents. Swags are abundant.


The showers are open roofed and heated by a donkey. This donkey does not have four legs and a tail but is a worn out forty-four gallon fuel drum connected to pipes which the water flows through. Wood is burnt under this drum and warms the water. Imagine showering at night and being able to look up and see the night sky full of stars.


The thunder boxes are an experience in themselves. The drop bottom toilets, with no flush and a bottomless hole, hold great fascination for the younger ones with the bottomless hole and they may be a little daunting for the teachers from the city. It’s all part of the experience.


Meal times are special, with the excited chatter and stories to be told. We all supply a certain amount of home cooking and everyone lends a hand with the preparation. Concerts or games are usually organized for the evenings but really the kids just like being together.

The school day starts at 8.30am with a parade of teachers and students walking the half a kilometre across to the racetrack. The covered area at the racetrack is
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set up with long tables and bench seats. The teachers bring out computers and resources. It’s not something these kids are used to, sitting with a group of school children and listening to a teacher, but they adjust. The kids have a good relationship with their teachers due to their communication skills with phones and computers.


At the end of three full days at Ewan both children and adults are exhausted and sleep deprived, in a healthy way, and ready for a long drive home.


The Ewan Outreach Camp is a unique and valuable time for these families. It’s a time of coming together in friendship and common circumstances and provides a very special bonding that will endure.

When we talk about school with these rural and isolated families it takes on a whole new meaning, but
what a way to learn!
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By Rebecca Burge