We are writing this letter as we travel in the Cape York Region, in far north Queensland, delivering sessions to schools in some of the remotest areas of our country.
We are currently two weeks into our three week journey. Over this time, we have experienced things we don’t normally encounter as an everyday Life Education Educator. We have crossed crocodile infested rivers, overcome the challenge of four wheel driving across rough terrain and dusted off all the red dirt from our clothes.
This is undoubtedly an experience that we’ll never forget and it’s reinforced to us that there are so many children in regional Australia who need health and drug education. There’s so much more work to do to reach them all.
After flying into Weipa, we drove 8 hours to Lockhart River to deliver the Life Education program at Lockhart State School. Almost all of the students are Indigenous Australians and were experiencing the Life Education program for the very first time.
I can’t describe how excited they were. In fact, even before we arrived, many of the young teachers had already shared with the students their own experience of Life Education from when they were children, so this created great anticipation among the students. The excitement overflowed into the classroom. Local Elders also supported the information we delivered and encouraged the children to listen carefully.
There is such a great need for health education in this community. It was obvious from the moment we arrived. Smoking rates have declined sharply among young Australians, but in communities like this, cigarette smoking is still a serious issue. It is a fact that Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children in remote areas face far worse health outcomes than the average Australian child.
Violence, bullying, hygiene and nutrition are among the issues that we identified. As Educators, we were able to focus on these and provide information and strategies to overcome them. Many of the children we had the pleasure to meet were at risk of accepting these issues as normal, but by working with local teachers we’re helping kids to understand that they can change their circumstances through the choices that they make. That’s why it’s so vital that education programs are available to these children from a young age.
There’s no doubt that the students learnt a lot from our time with them, and the school Principal was so appreciative of our support that the school is rebooking our program for 2018. The teachers and students now have access to a range of health education resources so they can continue the learning after we’re gone. But it’s vital that we keep coming back. We can’t just visit these areas once. Creating change requires an ongoing commitment to working with children, teachers and parents so that children in remote areas have the best opportunity to grow up safe and healthy.
There are other schools that are equally or even more needy than Lockhart State School. In our next issue we’ll continue our journey into the far north as we travel to Weipa and Coen.
To all our Hands Up Now supporters, thanks for helping us to reach out to kids in need all across Australia.
We have included a few photos of our journey for you to enjoy.
Jenn & Amanda
Harold and Amanda at Napranum
Jenn and Harold at Weipa (Harold seems shocked at the graffiti on the sign!)
The road to Lockhart (and this was the easy bit!)
One of the many dirt roads travelled