Alice on the Line

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August 14th 2013
Published: August 23rd 2013
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First thing on the Monday morning Andy took Jack (The Landcruiser) to the welders so that we could have the sub frame welded up in preparation for the new tow bar, at that stage we did not know who would be paying for it but whatever happened we still needed the work carried out and whilst we were waiting for people to argue, we were sitting around gathering costs.

Our week was still being consumed by the tow bar drama so we could not really go very far but late on the Tuesday afternoon we visited the Old Telegraph Station, which has a varied history attached to it, opened in 1872 as a Telegraph station played a very key role in the development of Australia reducing the isolation of Australians from the rest of the world, messages now took hours instead of the months by sea.

By the year 1900 this isolated station was not just a home to the Station Master and his family, there was a cook, blacksmith-stockman, governess and four linesmen-telegraph operators. Through the years this was also a home to the stolen generation and an army barracks.

Alice Springs school of the airAlice Springs school of the airAlice Springs school of the air

The teacher, in the main screen and two pupils are shown, in set above her head. These pupils could be a 1000 Kilometres away from each other and a 1000 K's away from where the teacher is sitting in Alice Springs
we also find reference to Mrs Ida Standley whom Standley Chasm is named after.

The buildings are beautifully restored, some of which we can wander around, however there are buildings which have been laid out as if they are still lived in but huge glass doors prevent entry but give us a clear look into them and how life was back in the day of its operation.

The stolen generation is what Kevin Rudd apologised to the indigenous people for about 4 years ago, there is a notice board explaining what it was like for the children here.

There are some parks people here getting ready for a special day tomorrow, it is called "Alice on the line" and gives children the opportunity to find out what life was like back in the days of the Old Telegraph Station, they can dress up, use the old kitchen for cooking and they are able to camp in the grounds whilst learning about the history.

We had a walk around the reserve and then head out for a short walk to the top of Trig Hill, the sun was going
Alice Springs School of the airAlice Springs School of the airAlice Springs School of the air

The pupil is doing the work inset and all the other kids can see what the teacher see's
down, it was a beautiful evening and the land around us spread out for miles across the MacDonnell Ranges.

Once we finished at the Old Telegraph Station we stopped to get some pizza and went back to camp to sit around in the warm evening to eat it, well it was cheap Tuesday and we had been walking so it was deserved.

Wednesday 14 August

I am feeling that I really need the tow bar drama and all the people involved out of our lives right now so that we can hook up and move on, Andy is really taking the brunt of it so he must be feeling it.

Wednesday morning sees the new tow bar fitted, this tow bar is a monster and very different to the one that just fractured and to the one on our previous Landcruiser, this design is quite beefy, so if this one fails we have serious problems.

I take some time out by the swimming pool to relax and at the very least feel as if I am on holiday. Ok, so the water is actually freezing cold and there is no way I am getting in, well not at the moment anyway, a couple of brave ladies have ventured in and foolishly I said to Andy I would go in if he did, so will wait and see what happens when he gets back from collecting Jack with his new tow bar.

The poolside is lovely in the shade, there are not many people around but a few come in, get in the pool and promptly get out again after looking at me as if to say "you could have warned me how cold it was". I guess I could have but I was enjoying the sport of watching the expressions on their faces.

Anyway, I eventually feel a presence beside me and find Andy standing there with an ice lolly for me. The only problem then was that he got in the pool, drat, now I am going to have to go in.

There are two swimming pools here and one of them is about 2 degrees warmer than the other, so I wander over to the warmer one, it is flipping freezing, so I go in up to my waist, stand there for about 5 minutes before deciding that I am just not brave enough to get my shoulders under.

Back at camp we look at the new tow bar, we are both very pleased, being much bigger and sturdier than the old one, we have some confidence restored for the next part of our journey.

Our thoughts have turned to flipping the coin, do we don't we? When do we do it? Shall we do best of 3 or best of 5 or should it be on the one throw? Heads North, Tails West.

Thursday 15 August

Alice Springs School of the Air was the very first of it's kind in the whole world, so even though we visited the one in Derby last year, we figured it would be good to see this one.

We were up early, breakfast done and out by 8.45am, just in time to get to school by 9am! Heading into the visitors centre there is already one couple sat getting a talk from one of the ladies who helps to run the visitors
Alice Springs School of the airAlice Springs School of the airAlice Springs School of the air

The Class rooms here, Green and Blue are effectively TV studio's where each teacher sits and has a group of pupils depending on age.
centre, we quickly pay and join in.

Joining the other couple on the bench, we find ourselves facing two studios, they look remarkably like TV studios, but then that is really what they are, but here it is a classroom for the 140 children who live in this area of outback Australia. The area here covers 1.3 million square kilometres, which is ten times the size of the United Kingdom and three and a half times the size of Germany or a little over twice the size of France.

The children generally only see the teachers once or twice a year, once when they go to Alice Springs for an open day and the other time is when the teacher gets in a 4 wheel drive and heads out to see them. Just worthy of mentioning, but the teachers are also trained in 4 wheel driving as they will have to go through a number of potential conditions and hazards in some very remote places whilst driving out to stations for their once a year visit, this could be one day or two days depending on the distance involved.

Watching the teachers is pretty amazing, they are very animated and while we watch them, we are also watching a screen that the school children are watching, the teacher controls this screen, so we can watch the lesson and also watch the children while they learn.

We have a laugh because the teacher puts the camera on one of the kids as she answers a question and then we see her lolling back in her chair not paying particular attention, completely oblivious to the fact that a bunch of strangers are looking in from the outside.

Being a teacher is one thing, but being a teacher at the school of the air is entirely another, they will have 3 weeks training so that they know how to control the studio and classroom equipment, before they are let loose on the kids. I wonder if it is off putting having an extra audience from the visitors centre.

This is a pretty amazing experience and one that I hope the teacher does not turn around onto the visitors and start asking questions. We go into another room and we see some of the art work that the children have created over the years. They really are very good and also just goes to show how resourceful they need to be when they are in isolated conditions and don't have shops to run to for art supplies etc.

We watch a film that runs through the history of Alice Springs School of the air, we ask a few questions and have a mooch around some of the old equipment such as the Traeger pedal powered HF radio.

The School of the Air changed over to Broadband in the early 21st century, whilst some may think this was a shame, broadband has allowed so many more features to be used such as the webcam and the ability to see what the teacher is writing and vice versa, what the children are responding with.

Children probably have half hour or so a day on School of the Air, but the work does not stop there, most places will either have a home tutor or one of the parents will oversee the children do more schoolwork so that it fills their day, they have packs sent out to
Alice Springs School of the AirAlice Springs School of the AirAlice Springs School of the Air

The quilt was made up of sections produced by each station to commemorate the 60 years SOTA has been going, Queen Elizabeth was here in 1958
them in advance of the lessons, they then do the homework and the lesson, then it gets sent back to the School of the Air for marking. So don't be thinking that the teacher only works half hour a day, it is far from it, much more involved than meets the eye.

We pick a school book and make a donation, we write up a book plate which gets stuck in the front and then placed in the school library, so one of the children can see who has donated the money in order to get the book into the library.

The School of the Air is not entirely government funded so they do rely on donations and fund raising. The equipment is expensive, every time a new student comes on line they have to send someone up with all the equipment, satellite dish, pc, screen etc so that they can get started. The equipment costs about $10,000 to $15,000 and must be returned to the school when the student finishes so that it can be used again, though more often than not, the equipment is either worn out or obsolete so it is
Alice Springs School of the AirAlice Springs School of the AirAlice Springs School of the Air

This section was made by a 12 year old boy, who's mum was crook an he so wanted his station to contribute a sewn section he did it himself, fantastic.

With all that exhausting learning, we left them to it and headed off for a cup of coffee.

I won't bore you with the rest of the day, but we are starting to prepare for our onward journey and needless to say how lovely it is to relax in the heat of the afternoon.

Additional photos below
Photos: 31, Displayed: 29


Alice Springs School of the AirAlice Springs School of the Air
Alice Springs School of the Air

Another section of the quilt
Alice Springs School of the AirAlice Springs School of the Air
Alice Springs School of the Air

Kings Creek Station, 35K's from Kings Canyon
Alice Springs School of the AirAlice Springs School of the Air
Alice Springs School of the Air

The SOTA has a wall of famous people who have visited, Rolf has obviously been here, Margaret Thatcher, and hundreds I can't remember.
Alice Springs School of the AirAlice Springs School of the Air
Alice Springs School of the Air

This map shows 140 pupils who are signed up for school of the air.
Alice Springs School of the AirAlice Springs School of the Air
Alice Springs School of the Air

The biggest Class Room in the world.
Alice Springs School of the AirAlice Springs School of the Air
Alice Springs School of the Air

Awesome, that is the only way to describe it.
Alice Springs School of the AirAlice Springs School of the Air
Alice Springs School of the Air

An old HF (High Frequency) radio donated by Old Andado Station

24th August 2013

Cultured & Educated
Wow! Cultured & educated as well. We are most impressed! Keith was educated by correspondence school in the outback - SOTA with modern technology is a giant leap forward for the kids these days. The art work is inspirational. Thank you for the visit. Keith & Jan xx
24th August 2013

School Days - I wish I could have visited too.
How absolutely fantastic Caroline and Andy. The seat of learning for all children who live out in the sticks or should it be "sand". xx

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