“As with all teaching roles, building relationships is the key to success, both in the classroom and the community.”
Fiona was living the dream on picturesque Philip Island, Victoria, when she decided to act on her desire of over 20 years, to teach in a remote Aboriginal community.
'After 23 years of teaching in early childhood and primary schools, it felt like it was the right time in my career and life to make the move, so I spent many hours researching remote schools in WA’s Kimberley region and applied to the Remote Teaching Service Pool.'
Once Fiona was offered a position at Kalumburu Remote Community School it was time to start packing and moving her life across the country. 'The Department was very helpful in organising the transport of my belongings along with the Principal, Carol Thorsby who was extremely helpful in answering many of my “silly” questions. Finding out that I had to pre-order 2 weeks’ worth of food that arrived on a plane was something to get my head around. Now, the excitement of the fortnightly food plane is just part of life here.'
Before commencing, Fiona met with other staff members and had three days of professional development in Kununurra before flying to Kalumburu for the new school year, 'I instantly felt welcomed and valued as a new staff member and again, had so many of my questions answered. The first few weeks of Term 1 went by so quickly and it feels like it was bit of a blur, but I felt supported by all of the staff.'
'After 5 weeks, my belongings arrived on a barge, so I was able to unpack and feel completely comfortable in my new home. It’s only been 6 months but it feels like it has been home for years. Being out here has been a period of learning and discovery, there are so many amazing adventures to undertake, going 4WDing, swimming in waterholes, seeing rock art, eating bush tucker, camping under the stars, watching some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen, hiking and watching a corroboree. The community has been really friendly, welcoming and respectful.'
Fiona may love exploring and discovering new things but her favourite place will always be her classroom. 'It is so easy and rewarding to spend my days with the beautiful children of Kalumburu as they teach me so much every day. One student asked me “what’s your dreaming Miss?” I wasn’t sure what she meant, so she explained that you are given a ‘dreaming’ when you are born and it’s an animal from your country. Hers is the snake. I said that being from Phillip Island, then maybe my dreaming is the penguin. She laughed so hard and said, “it’s okay Miss, you can have my dreaming.” I felt very proud of her for sharing her dreaming with me.'