Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Denim and Diamonds

Entrance to the conference dinner.

Last week I attended what will probably be my last ever professional conference.

It was a good one to go out on, being the annual conference of the ICPA*, held in St George.

During the last ten years, I've been working with bush kids with disabilities. This conference was attended by the parents of isolated kids, and the people, mostly from schools of distance education, who help their parents school them.

My conference accommodation

For all the guff that's spoken about home schooling of late, the process has a long and successful history in outback Australia.

Times have changed, of course, and the lessons are no longer delivered by radio. It's all done using the internet, and most of the issues canvassed at the conference were about connectivity.

Telstra seems to be attempting to wriggle out from under, when it comes to their universal service obligations. There was a motion at the conference protesting the notion that once either satellite of wifi connections were established through the NBN, all hard lines would be removed.

This is OK in an urban environment, but when your nearest neighbour is 50 kms away, and the nearest medical assistance hours away, a reliable hard line is essential.

Wifi and satellite don't work all that well when it's coming down with cats and dogs during (for example) a rain depression, which is precisely the time when the road in is likely to be cut for weeks or months.

This is my stamping ground - not for much longer.

Another issue relates to the amount of data that needs to be sent when the students are in the later years of secondary. To put it crudely, in many cases it ain't up to the job.

There were resolutions passed on the conference floor related to this issue, and many others. These people have enormous political clout, and know how to use it. Present were a full range of federal and state pollies, including Pauline Hanson who looked very uncomfortable most of the time.

Chilly sunrise.

People from the bush know how to enjoy themselves, and the conference was a hoot on the social side, as well as being a great expression of the energy and loyalty found out west.

Dinner in the pavilion.

I've resolved to continue my association and advocacy for bush kids post retirement. They're inspiring people.

*Isolated Children's Parents Association


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