Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Friday, 14 August 2020

Beginnings

Aerial view (Must have been taken in the dry).


It’s not often that you get the opportunity to revisit the past in a significant way. I’m probably fortunate in that I’ll have that opportunity in a few weeks when I return to Townsville after an absence of nearly thirty years. I worked as a principal in special schools in Queensland for eighteen years, but my first appointment in that role was to a new special school called the Mundingburra South Special School, to be opened at the beginning of the 1981 school year and located in a building in Burt Street Mundingburra.

 

At that time, there were actually four special schools in Townsville. They were Aitkenvale Special School, Cootharinga Special School, the Endeavour Special School in North Ward, and Townsville West Special School in Wilson Street. The first and last of these were state special schools, originally called “opportunity” schools. Cootharinga and Endeavour Special Schools were both originally training centres set up by private charitable organisations called the Queensland Sub-normal Children’s’ Association and the North Queensland Crippled Children’s’ Society respectively. At the time of their creation, these schools catered for children with severe and multiple impairments considered ineligible for enrolment in state special schools.

 

During, and immediately after the Whitlam era, comprehensive human rights legislation was introduced federally which began to markedly improve the lives of people with disabilities. By the 1980s, this legislation was beginning to take effect and the states had begun the process of developing their structures to provide educational access for all. The previous training centres were becoming the responsibility of the relevant state authorities. By 1981, the two Townsville centres previously run by the charitable foundations had been staffed by teachers paid by Education Queensland, although the buildings they occupied remained the property of the foundations.

 

In the case of Cootharinga, the school had grown over the years to the point where its original buildings at North Ward were inadequate, and an interim decision had been made for the school to be relocated into the administrative centre on the same property, which was a two-story building with a lift. Whilst this worked reasonably well, the lift was an issue, as it could not be used during a fire, and timely evacuation of the wheelchair-bound classes on the upper floor was problematical. A decision was made, that subject to funding, a new purpose-built school would be developed off the North Ward site on state land in Thompson Street Mundingburra.

 

In the meantime, and whilst project planning was underway for this new school, overcrowding problems at Cootharinga would be partially alleviated by the commissioning of a new small school in Burt Street Mundingburra. This was the school which I opened in January 1981 as Mundingburra South Special School as teaching principal. The building is now the site of the Mundingburra South Preschool. During 1982, in my second year as principal of the “overflow” school, Alwyn Thomas, (principal of Cootharinga Special School at the time), and I were seconded to produce a design brief for the buildings for the proposed new school, which now accommodates the Townsville Community Learning Centre.

 

This detailed brief was expected to outline the physical and curriculum needs of the students, and to explain the required built environment in terms that Treasury officials and architects would understand. It was a considerable and comprehensive task, and the deadline for completion was semester two 1982. I was replaced in my school to allow time to complete the task, but Alwyn wasn’t, as he did not have a teaching load. We completed the task by the deadline, and it was sent off to the Director of Public Works (now called Q Build) to be costed.  We were disappointed to be told at the end of 1982 that there were insufficient funds to build the school, and both Alwyn and I were appointed to special schools in Redlands and Petrie respectively in 1983, and we left Townsville.

 

I was excited to be told at the end of 1985 that I was to be sent north again to close Cootharinga Special School, and to open the replacement school in Thompson Street Mundingburra, to be called Mundingburra Special School, for the 1987 school year. The required $2.8 million to fund the project had obviously been found. In 1986, the board of the Cootharinga Society was not as enthusiastic about the relocation as was Education Queensland. There was a body of opinion that the new school would be a white elephant. Some on the board believed that it would be impossible to send sixty plus children daily offsite to a school remote from their residential institution. In a conversation at the time, one of the more senior board members of the Society insisted that the bulk of the children at Cootharinga were “unreceptive to education”.

 

A great deal of liaison was necessary with the matron and care staff at the residential to solve the problems presented by the demands of the relocation. We used the 1986 school year to work on these issues one by one. Teachers came to work early and went into the residential with our physiotherapist and occupational therapist to train the nursing and care staff in techniques which made the care tasks less demanding. In addition, the limited independence skills many of the children possessed were developed as much as possible. Care staff came into the school to observe and assist in physical care activities. A spinoff was the improvement in relationships between care and teaching staff. We also encouraged visits of residential staff to the construction site during the latter half of 1986 as the buildings took shape. The aerial shot above shows the complex now. It must have been taken in the dry.

 

By the end of 1986, the Cootharinga Society officially supported the development of the new school, and all the children, with the exception of a handful of students with life threatening conditions were slated to attend in 1987. The staff appointed to the new school at the beginning of 1987 were, with one exception, in their first or second year of teaching. The energy and enthusiasm of this group of young teachers was an enormous advantage in setting up and operationalising programmes in the new school. The official opening took place in term 3 1987. The Minister for Education at the time (Hon. Lin Powell) described the opening as a great event for the Townsville community.

 

I was very fortunate to enjoy six years as principal at Mundingburra Special School and remain in touch with the enthusiastic cohort of teachers who established the school during the first few years of its life. A number of them went on to pursue distinguished careers in special education and academia. They were an amazing bunch, and it was an honour to have led them in this exciting enterprise. It was rewarding to for me to learn in 1997 when I was in a regional management position in another region, that one of the foundation students (who was one of the group of children considered too delicate to move to the new school and had been given six months to live in 1986), was graduating. She had attended Mundingburra from 1987 on and was moving into a semi-independent living situation.

 

The original school will always have a special place in my heart.


Comments closed.

 

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

What wonderful people are so many parents who toil mightily in bringing up their disabled children.
John Grey.

1735099 said...

They are ordinary people who do what parents do.
Their tenacity, however, is what kept me motivated for 50 years in this field.
Their quality of life, and that of their children, could be improved if public attitudes towards people with disabilities improved.
There is ample evidence, that for some, it hasn't.
Websites like Catallaxy continue to use terms like "retard" and spaz".

Anonymous said...

"Websites like Catallaxy continue to use terms like "retard" and spaz"."
No.
Some posters do so.
If that is so confronting for you, you could simply back off and not read it.
However, you don't. It seems you are permanently attracted to that web site.
Probably because you get a kick out of the criticism you attract.
John Grey.

Anonymous said...

That's a great read but it's all about the blogger.
I'm betting on narcissism.
John Grey.

Anonymous said...

If the reader is interested, The History Guy has an excellent video on his You Tube channel called
Assault Helicopter Companies of the Vietnam War.

John Grey.

Anonymous said...

John Grey you are obsessed with 1735099.
Get over it.

1735099 said...

No.
Some posters do so.

If those terms are published as insults (and they routinely are), they are the responsibility of the blog owner, not the posters.
Some terms such as "Jewish" are removed, so why can't the same strategy be employed for these terms.
As it stands Catallaxy is vulnerable to a complaint to HREOC.

Anonymous said...

"As it stands Catallaxy is vulnerable to a complaint to HREOC."
Is that a threat? Or a promise?
John Grey.

Anonymous said...

"John Grey you are obsessed with 1735099"
Not at all.
To quote the blogger himself, I'm just here to call out bullshit.
John Grey.

Anonymous said...

For someone who uses a number that he would rather not have been assigned, you have an aversion to publishing numbers that show you quote totally inaccurate statements based on the message you wish to put across. Did you ever have a quiet ale with Aldy?

1735099 said...

Is that a threat? Or a promise?

Neither.
It's a simple statement of fact.
See -https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/disability-rights/about-disability-rights

Anonymous said...

"Their tenacity, however, is what kept me motivated for 50 years in this field."
I'm sure the pay and the 3 months holiday p.a. contributed to your motivation levels too.
John Grey.

1735099 said...

I'm sure the pay and the 3 months holiday p.a. contributed to your motivation levels too.
You've swallowed every cliche about teaching out there.
The holidays are the one and only perk available to teachers, when they get to take them. As principal of a school that had been newly opened I didn't get anywhere near you mythical three months in 1987.
In reality,I remember quite well that I was working at this new school on Christmas Eve that year catching up on paperwork that had to be completed by year's end.
The neighbours across the road in Thompson Street became worried when they saw my car still parked at the school at 5pm and came knocking.
Problem was, I used to take my blue heeler with me for security, and he bailed them up at the door to my office.
They were caring people and didn't deserve to be confronted by a stroppy hound.

Anonymous said...

It's so sad to see the sickos of the left and a Christian leader mock President Trump's loss of his brother with the meme "Wrong Trump".
That level of abuse is symptomatic of the left's drive for power by any means, including death, in trying to get rid of the current President.
Let us all hope that the vile attacks only serve to drive more sensible voters to Tump in the Presidential elections.
John Grey.

Anonymous said...

The blogger chooses to tell a story about the one one year out of 50 which is different to the norm of 3 months holidays. Acknowledges that it is a perk though!
Now try telling your reader that the teaching profession doesn't get 3 months holiday after your admission.
John Grey.

Anonymous said...

"John Grey you are obsessed with 1735099."
Oh, and speaking about obsession - the blogger recently started yet another discussion about Vietnam and his conscription on the Catallaxy blog.
Now THERE is a walking, talking, live example of obsession for you.
50 years ago and he can't let go.
Tell me I'm wrong.
John Grey.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear.
That "sewer", Catallaxy, has caught the blogger praising Dan Sultan, the musician who was charged with sexual assault in January.
Posted here with no judgement, just the facts.
John Grey.

1735099 said...

Show me where I “praised” Dan Sultan.
I posted a music clip.
You have an unhealthy obsession with paedophilia.

1735099 said...

Now try telling your reader..

Try teaching.
If the holidays were such a wonderful perk, there’d be a queue from here to the moon of people wanting to teach.
There isn’t.

1735099 said...

50 years ago and he can’t let go.

Nor will I, whilst there are idiots like your good self who won’t accept the historical fact that 500 Australians were killed to keep a Coalition government in power 50 plus years ago.

1735099 said...

to drive more sensible voters to Tump (sic).
The current POTUS is not the same without his “r”s.
It’s his most prominent feature...

Anonymous said...

"the historical fact that 500 Australians were killed to keep a Coalition government in power 50 plus years ago"
That would have to be the most inane statement ever made by the blogger.

Anonymous said...

1735099 is absolutely correct. The fear of communism was harnessed by Menzies and used for years.
Ex-digger.

Anonymous said...

Harnessing the legitimate fear of communism is quite different to the crazy theory about winning elections based on the number of graves of young Australians.
John Grey.

Anonymous said...

"Show me where I “praised” Dan Sultan.
I posted a music clip."
All logical thinkers would see your posting as the act of a fan. Ipso facto, you are demonstrating your praise of Sultan.
John Grey.

Anonymous said...

The blogger is a typical lefty. Has a shot at President Trump's size but can't land a blow on his foreign policy, economic successes, and resilience in the face of Deep State surveillance of his campaign and Presidency.
John Grey.

Anonymous said...

To ex-digger.
I'd be interested to hear your views on how communism wasn't a threat during Menzies' time.
Given that communism is responsible for the deaths of 100 million people worldwide, Menzies was right in opposing its inroads down through Asia and towards Australia.
(You and I seem to be the only people who read this blog)
John Grey.

1735099 said...

All logical thinkers would see your posting as the act of a fan. Ipso facto, you are demonstrating your praise of Sultan.
Logical thinkers would be able to make a distinction between a musician and his music.

1735099 said...

land a blow on his foreign policy, economic successes, and resilience in the face of Deep State surveillance
Foreign policy? - Nuclear proliferation treaty abandoned, Iran is once again making nukes, North Korea has resumed testing, and relationships with China, the Russian federation, and NATO countries in Europe are the worst they have ever been.
Economic successes? - The USA has the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, and US manufacturing has fallen in a hole.
Deep state surveillance is an invention of the Tea Party. Trump cops criticism because he deserves it, not because there is any conspiracy against him.

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