The Teachers Are Blowing Their Whistles!

Subtitle

Living conditions for teachers working in the remote areas of Queensland.

In April 2008 :

Steve Ryan, the president of the Queensland Teachers Union said that "the union has heard from our members of security screens being fitted to doors ( of remote teacher housing ) but the surrounding walls have been so weakened by termite infestation that the walls have simply been kicked in and intruders have ransacked the personal property of teachers are their families."

In September 2008 :

The Queensland Teachers Union said that teachers living in Queensland's remotest areas were being rewarded for their hard work and dedication with "shameful, barely habitable accommodation".

Hundreds of reports of leaking roofs, electrical faults and mouldy living conditions had reached the union.

Teachers were living in houses that were -

 * leaking,

 * mouldy,

 * flea-infested,

 * falling down,

 * where doors were missing and broken,

 * where termites had taken over

 * and up to one third of air-conditioning units were broken.

 

Member for Cook Jason O'Brien said, "Quite frankly, some of the housing teachers are expected to live in is in such poor condition you nearly want to cry."

 

In April 2010 :

Queensland Teachers' Union ( QTU ) Peninsula organiser Maureen Duffy said that QTU members were growing increasingly concerned about the poor condition of accommodation for teachers working in the remote areas of the state.

 

Teachers were concerned because -

Holes are kicked in the walls of their houses by vandals.

Their air-conditioners are stolen.

The electrical wiring in their accommodation may be unsafe.

 

In early 2010, recent vandalism to teachers' accommodation in the Gulf region included -

 * Children, who were unable to break in to a teacher's house because of the security protection, turned off the electricity supply to the teacher's house.

The contents of the teacher's fridge went rotten.

When the teacher returned after the holiday, the damage to the kitchen was so bad that it had to be re-painted.

 * Jewellery and clothes were stolen from a teacher's house and then worn around the town the next day.

 * A teacher's car was stolen, taken for a joy-ride around town and then set alight.

 * Termite damage in one teacher's house was so bad that children simply pushed through the walls of the house and stole the teacher's possessions.

 

Now teachers vow to strike over housing, Tony Koch, The Australian, 3 April 2008

Teachers strike over flea-infested houses, Ellen Lutton, The Brisbane Times : 26 July 2008

Dismay over schools and housing, The Torres News, 21 September 2008.

Bid to shield staff who blow whistle, Nicola Berkovic, The Australian : 21 September 2008 (approx).

Teachers flee Cape York town Aurukun in fear after spate of break-ins and torching of car, Carly Hennessy and Gavin King, The Sunday-Mail : 4 April 2010.

In August 2015 : children in some remote Queensland communities are too drunk to go to school.

Alcohol is banned or limited in 19 remote communities across Queensland.

The Abbott Government is pressuring several of the dry communities in Queensland to restrict the sale of Vegemite to combat escalating chaos.

Vegemite is being brewed into alcohol in large quantities, fuelling drunken mayhem.

The alcohol can be brewed in bathtubs in back yards.

Adults and even young children are getting drunk on the bathtub brew, which is sometimes mixed with orange juice.

Children in some remote communities are too hung-over from all-night benders to go to school.

 

Addiction spreads, Renee Viellaris, p.4, The Courier-Mail, 9 August 2015

Working in the remote Queensland communities can be a dangerous affair for teachers.

Nurses, teachers and other public servants who are placed in remote North Queensland communities are left to fend for themselves.

And working in these areas is a dangerous affair.

 

When I was in NQ recently I caught up with a family friend I hadn't seen for ages, my younger brother's best mate.

After he graduated from teacher training, he put his hand up to teach in a certain remote area.

He was from the bush and figured it would be a good idea to put in some time in one of the remote areas before possibly getting married etc.
 
 

As time went on, break-ins to his place of residence became more and more frequent and then started occuring at night when he was out.

It got to the point he was worried for his safety, especially at night when he might be asleep.

 

He awoke one night to find intruders actually inside his residence.

He jumped out a back window.
 
 

He asked for a transfer but, guess what, no one else wants to work in the area - I wonder why?

 

He was still offered no support after the home invasion and eventually suffered a breakdown.

 

He had to resign to get out of there and pay for his own rehabilitation...as Education Qld was nowhere to be seen.
 
 
 
Vince of Albion, Reader's Comment 3 of 16, Aurukun teachers fear for safety after attempted break-in and riot, Tanya Chilcott and Jorja Orreal, The Courier-Mail, 25 May 2010
 
Vince, Reader's Comment 49 of 129, Under-fire minister visits Strait, Michael Wray and AAP, The Courier-Mail : Thursday, 20 March 2008
Aurukun school.
Badu Island school : TB confirmed at a Badu Island school in the early 2000's.

In the early 2000's a case of TB was confirmed at a school on Badu Island.

TB is a significant problem in Papua New Guinea.

 

Cairns State High TB test results due today , Daniel Bateman, The Cairns Post, 24 March 2015

Cooktown State School 

Mel Burke is a teacher at Cooktown State School in Far North Queensland.

Mel is worried about the security of her Queensland Department of Education accommodation.

... "We had an attempted break-in less than a month ago."

There are no security lights around her home.

She has reported the security concerns but nothing has been done.

 

The roof is leaking into the walls.

There is mould growing out of the floor.

Mel is very worried about the effect on her health of breathing in all of the mould, mildew and fungus.

 

And there is not enough accommodation for every teacher, so Queensland teachers working in remote areas have to share accommodation.

When you come home tired after a hard day at work and wanting to relax, you have to share your kitchen, bathroom and living room.

So there really isn't anywhere where you can ever relax.

And you simply have to endure it day by day until you are able to leave.

It is not much of a reward for all of those years spent studying at uni.

Why would anybody want to be a teacher if they knew the way that Queensland teachers have to live?

Mel says that teachers do not want to stay at Cooktown State School because of the poor standard of Education Queensland accommodation.

 

Paying the price for government indifference, p.10, Queensland Teachers' Journal, Volume 31, number 6 : 22 August, 2008.

Doomadgee - a young Queensland teacher was raped at Doomadgee in 2001.

A young Queensland teacher was raped at Doomadgee in 2001.

A 33-year-old man admitted to the rape.

 

Man to be sentenced over teacher rape, ABC News, 28 February 2002

Doomadge in April 2010 : "People do not realise what it is really like for teachers, nurses and police working in these remote areas".

CrimSafe screens were installed on teacher accommodation at Doomadgee but criminal offenders broke through the CrimSafe screens with a screwdriver.

Five teachers' residences were broken into over the Christmas holiday.

They defecated and urinated on the floors and wiped it over the walls and stole all of the teachers' personal property, which was found in numerous houses in Doomadgee.

The Magistrate presiding over the matter at the time was fantastic and was that disgusted that he gave serious jail time to the main offenders.

People do not realise what it is really like for Queensland Government workers in these remote areas.

The Queensland police, teachers and medical staff are heroes for working in these conditions.

 

JJ of Aus, Readers' Comment 21 of 24, Teachers flee Cape York town Aurukun in fear after spate of break-ins and torching of car, Carly Hennessy and Gavin King, The Sunday Mail, 4 April 2010.

Doomadgee in April 2015: hungry children miss school because they have to stay up late to steal food.

Dramatic street fights have been ongoing in Doomadgee for the past two months.

Up to 100 people have been involved in some of the fights.

The fighting seems to occur between Wednesday and Sunday - after welfare payments to the Doomadgee community.

The children do not get fed when the welfare money has been spent on alcohol and gambling.

Local police report that when the Doomadgee children are hungry they stay up late to commit crime just to get some food.

And they do not go to school the next day.

Officer-in-charge of Doomadgee Senior Sergeant Matt Campbell said that the police do their utmost to maintain peace and good order so that the children can go to school.

Police numbers in the town have been doubled. 

 

On Friday 17 April 2015 a group of local people smashed its way into the hospital.

Doctors and nurses had to lock themselves into a room.

Police who came to the hospital were pelted with rocks and beer cans by about 30 to 40 people.

 

Sly grog thumps town, Thomas Chamberlin, P. 13, The Courier-Mail 22 April 2015

Doctors hide as brawlers hit hospital, Thomas Chamberlin, P. 11, The Courier-Mail, 21 April 2015

Duan Island in April 2008.

A female teacher has told how she fended off an intruder who tried to sexually assault her on Duan Island in the Torres Strait in April 2006.

The teacher claimed that the Queensland government authorities failed to support her after the attack.

 

 QLD Teacher tells of attempted s-x attack in Torres Strait, Roberta Mancuso, AAP, 15 April, 2008

A Queensland teacher whistleblows about threats of s-xual assault on a Torres Strait Island - not identified in this report but presumably Duan.

In March 2008 a female teacher, who did not want to be named, came forward to highlight serious safety issues facing teachers who were working in the Torres Strait Islands.

 

The teacher said that her departmental accommodation was not secure.

An alleged attacker easily broke through a door, threatening to s*xually assault her.

She fought him off and screamed, causing him to flee.

 

Wanting to call her parents but without a reliable phone in her house, the teacher ran to the school principal's house.

The principal advised the teacher to wait till she settled down the next day before calling.

She was also told not to leave the island on the next barge in three days because if she did she might not get another teaching job.

 

Police came three days later but did not arrest and charge the man until six weeks after the alleged assault, she said.

On the night the man was arrested, his friends allegedly harassed the teacher, banging on her window and doors.

 

After this incident she began sleeping with a knife under her bed and a mallet next to her pillow.

She left the island soon after.

She asked the Education Department's regional office staff if they were aware of the incident.

 

A spokesman said the department was aware of the alleged attack on the teacher but had a policy of not contacting classroom teachers unless it was a life and death situation.

 

Teacher slept beside knife, Michael Wray, The Courier-Mail, Friday 21 March 2008

More details : http://www.whistleblowingwomen.com/qlddeptofeducation.htm

Kowanyama in April 2010.

Extra security patrols have been ordered for Kowanyama teacher accommodation during the 10-day Easter 2010 holiday.

 

Teachers flee Cape York town Aurukun in fear after spate of break-ins and torching of car, Carly Hennessy and Gavin King, The Sunday Mail, 4 April 2010.

Mabuiag Island in the Torres Strait in February 2008.

In early 2008 :

A single woman teacher on Mabuiag Island in the Torres Strait left because she was frightened by peeping toms who stalked her at night, looking through her window.

The window had to be kept open because her departmental housing had no air-conditioning in the oppressive tropical heat.

 

On 5 February 2008 :

A nurse was raped on Mabuiag Island.

Queensland Health had ignored her requests to fix her hopelessly insecure accommodation.

 

Desperate hours of rape victim, Inside Story, Tony Koch, The Australian, 10 March 2008

Now teachers vow to strike over housing, Tony Koch, The Australian, 3 April 2008

Mornington Island State School in October 2009.

According to this report by Bill Minnis, working conditions were good at Mornington Island State School in October 2009.

Mornington Island : remote but not off the education map, Bill Minnis, Education Today.

Pormpuraaw in April 2010.

Extra security patrols have been ordered for Pormpuraaw teacher accommodation during the 10-day Easter 2010 holiday.

Teachers flee Cape York town Aurukun in fear after spate of break-ins and torching of car, Carly Hennessy and Gavin King, The Sunday Mail, 4 April 2010.

Saibai Island - living and working conditions for teachers.

My son's friend graduated as a teacher.

At 21 years old, his first posting was to Saibai Island in the Torres Strait.

It is very close to PNG.

He was the only white male living on the island.

He repeatedly asked for a transfer.

He stuck it out for six months and then resigned because he could not stand the isolation.

 

  • Posted by "Roscoe of CQ", 9:44 pm on January 26, 2009. Comment 26 of 27. Readers Comments, Teacher numbers don't add up, Saturday 24 January, 2009, The Courier-Mail

 

Thursday Island - living and working conditions for teachers.

I lived on Thursday island for three years.

I travelled to each of the schools on the Torres Straits islands.

It was an experience that I will always value.

The greatest danger on Thursday island is falling in love with the place and never wanting to leave.

 Robina Cosser

Woorabinda in March 2008.
Teacher accommodation at Woorabinda was vandalised while teachers were on their Christmas 2007-8 break.

Security will be boosted around the teacher accommodation over the Easter long weekend.

Teachers had demanded an increased security presence over Easter and the school holidays.

 

Barry Thomson from the Queensland Teachers' Union says while they are happy with added security, other law and order issues need to be addressed.

"Now what we will do is I guess is what [is] described as a monitoring role.

So teachers there will have another union meeting next term and we will look at how things are progressing, if police are on site how the security is working and so on," he said.

 

Security boost for Woorabinda teacher accommodation, ABC News, 20 March 2008

Woorabinda in November 2012.
 
Emergency replacements have been sent to Woorabinda, an isolated Queensland school, after two staffers were brutally bashed during their morning walk by a man wielding a tree branch.

The women, aged 21 and 24, were walking through scrubland in the Aboriginal community, southwest of Rockhampton, when the man who was hiding in bushes jumped them from behind.

The Courier-Mail has been told how the women grappled with the branch as the man repeatedly struck them about the head and face, the branch breaking with the force of the attack.

 

One of the women, a teacher who suffered bruising to her nose and jaw, as well as cuts to her head, was due to set off for her honeymoon this weekend.

Last night the 24-year-old was being treated for a suspected fracture of the eye socket, as well as other head and facial injuries.

 

Education Department regional director Wayne Butler said yesterday's attack in involved two "highly respected" young staff members.

"The department has offered assistance to the two staff members, as well as providing counselling to the school community," he said.

 

Two women bashed in central Queensland Aboriginal community latest in string of similar attacks on government employees, Kate Kyriacou, The Courier-Mail, 8 November 2012

Student teachers do not seem to realise that they will probably have to live in a remote area for two years in order to gain full-time employment in a Queensland school.

The Queensland Department of Education requires all teachers who want full-time employment in a Queensland state school to spend a minimum of two years posted in a remote area.

Not all student teachers seem to realise that this is the case.

They spend four years at uni training to be a teacher and then find that they can only ever obtain contract work because they are not willing to "go remote".

Living in a remote community can be a very, very interesting and rewarding experience.

It could also be a good alternative to volunteer work overseas.

But the requirement to go remote may be quite a significant disincentive to young women teachers.

When I visited remote communities around the Cape I saw some young women teachers who seemed to be trapped in unpleasant situations.

The years from 22-26 are quite important years for a woman, because they are the years in which you are probably going to meet your future husband.

It is to your advantage to meet as many people as possible.

Young women teachers in Queensland are sent off to live for two years in very remote towns.

They meet local farmers, butchers and policemen.

So if you want to marry a farmer, a butcher or a policeman and live in a remote community for the rest of your life, teaching may suit you.

And it will suit the Department of Education to have a teacher married and living in a remote community, with her accommodation provided by her husband.

But if you dream of living a more sophisticated lifestyle, you may need to look for teaching work overseas, in England, for example.

 

 

My own feeling is that the older you are when you go to a remote community, the better.

You have more to offer as a teacher and you have more experience of the world - you are aware of your options.

You also seem to be safer.

 

 

I will never forget my many boat trips around Thursday Island, Cape York and the Torres Straits Islands.

And the flights to schools in remote communities and the Torres Strait islands.

You have many really, really amazing opportunities in the remote areas.

 

The Queensland government offer teachers in remote areas a small allowance.

The allowance pays for your airfares in and out of the community, the higher costs for food in remote areas, expensive phone calls to family and your hotel accommodation during school holidays or medical trips to cities.

The remote allowance for Queensland teachers is not very generous.

And if a Queensland teacher resigns before the two-year period is complete, all relocation costs must be refunded.

In some cases these costs total $20,000 or more.

 

So, if you are really unhappy in your remote Queensland posting, you may feel that you are being held prisoner.

 

But you can save money teaching in the remote areas.

I taught for three years on Thursday Island (TI) and I often had three pay cheques in my wallet because there was so little to spend your money on.

We used to order most of our food from Cairns and have it sent up by boat.

We had to pay the shipping costs, but it was much cheaper than actually going shopping because there was no opportunity to impulse-buy, and no opportunity to have coffee and cakes while you were shopping.

Families could buy an investment house and have it paid off by a tenant while they were living in Departmental accommodation.

The rents charged for Departmental housing in remote areas were really low.

The housing on TI was of a poorish standard - the flats were small and basic.

Single teachers had to share accommodation with a stranger.

There were constant, horrible battles over accommodation.

Some of the flats on TI were very run-down, poorly furnished and smelled of mould.

The first house I lived in on TI was a very romantic old wooden house overlooking the sea.

But I had to share it with a young de-facto couple and so I spent most of my time sitting in my bedroom - a small partitioned section of the balcony.

Security was non-existant, but I never felt at any risk during my three years on TI.

Not from the local people, anyway.

Robina Cosser

Conditions for teachers who visit schools in the remote areas.

The treatment of teaching professionals in remote areas needs addressing.

As a senior teacher, I recently volunteered to complete a remote area relieving transfer.

So I took leave from the comfort of my Brisbane job and lifestyle to commit some professional and personal time to the education of indigenous children.

I had to share sub-standard accommodation as well as hotel accommodation when doing professional development.

You can't tell me that educational bureaucrats suffer the same accommodation problems when they travel.

Are they limited to 2 or 3 star hotels and forced to share a bedroom with strangers?

Teachers put up with unfair treatment because they are dedicated professionals who always put the interests of the children first.

 

 

It is time that teachers started demanding equality with other professions who are accorded respect across their professional and private lives.

 

  • Teacher of Brisbane, Reader's Comment 6 of 15, Teachers flee Cape York town Aurukun in fear after spate of break-ins and torching of car, Carly Hennessy and Gavin King, The Sunday Mail, 4 April 2010.

 

Robina Cosser says : I agree with this comment.

Visiting the remote area schools is a really interesting experience.

For me the positives far outweighed the negatives for several years. 

You do have to stay in some very simple country pubs, but the country pubs are interesting places to spend time.

You get an insight into life in the remote areas.

Most of the time I was allowed to have a pub or motel room to myself.

But eventually I was asked, by one school administrator, to share a pub room for several days with two other women teachers who were visiting the remote school at the same time.

I had deliberately booked a room at a very cheap pub - it cost only $42 a night, well below our accommodation allowance, which was about $55 a night at that time.

But the administrator told me that his school had a policy of asking teachers to share pub rooms - so the cost of accommodation could be reduced to $14 per night per visiting teacher.

I was very concerned about sharing a bathroom.

We were all older teachers who had travelled and lived in some very remote parts of the world.

Had either of the other teachers got a communicable infection such as hepatitis?

I had a friend who was a carrier of hepatitis B, so I was very aware of the risks of infection.

Would the department accept responsibility if I contracted a communicable disease from one of the other women?

And both of the other women were very heavy smokers.

Would they want to smoke in the bedroom?

When I was visiting this remote area school, I usually spent the evenings marking the workbooks of my students - it was my only chance to see their work.

Would I be able to mark workbooks, make notes on my visit and prepare my lessons for the next day properly if I was sharing a bedroom?

It was really important to me to "perform well" while I was at this remote school - there was not a lot of support for my work at the school and my visit was my opportunity to "drum up" enthusiasm for my work among the students and the staff.  

My visits were always quite stressful.

Would I be able to rest properly if I was sharing a room?

It had cost the Department about $350 to fly me out to the remote area, so it seemed ridiculous to me to economise on the cost of my accommodation.

 

Visiting teachers need to be provided with a reasonable standard of accommodation in order to be able to "perform" effectively.

 

 

When I went out to Aurukun for a few days in 1987, I was accommodated in what looked like a chicken hutch - a hut in the school grounds that was entirely covered in security wire and fastened on the inside with a huge padlock.

The kitchen of the hut was a disaster area - there seemed to have been a fire.

So at night I had to walk quite a distance through the town to and from a teacher's house to have dinner.

The grass around the chicken hutch was covered in broken glass and there were no lights.

Walking through Aurukun at night was risky, to say the least.

It was a really dangerous situation.

There was a lot of pressure on visiting teachers not to complain about the dreadful accommodation.

 

Queensland teachers give up teaching because they are "left to rot in miserable schools across the state".

Why do so many Queensland teachers give up teaching?

Because they are sent to some miserable schools across the state and left to rot,

while watching favoured others transferred to pick spots at a moment's notice.

 

Fred, a teacher with 30 years of classroom experience, quoted by Des Houghton in Teachers' view on the "missing" , p. 54, The Courier-Mail, May 30-31, 2009

 

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