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The NT GEP is centred in the Katherine Region of the Northern Territory (also called the Rivers Cluster). The region is about the same size as Victoria but has only 29 schools. Katherine is the major centre for the region and is about 300kms south of Darwin.
There are many smaller communities spread across the region ranging in size from a couple of dozen people to around 1000. Many of these are indigenous communities in very remote locations, up to 7 hours driving from Katherine.
Katherine High School with approximately 700 students is the largest school and the only stand alone secondary school in the region. There are four Government and one Catholic Primary Schools in Katherine ranging in size from 260 to 350 students, with from 10 to 60% being indigenous students. There is also a large contingent of Air Force personnel children who can make up to 60% of the student population in some schools. Katherine School of the Air is a distance education school that caters for primary and middle year students in isolated communities across the top half of the Northern Territory.
The Katherine Group School consists of 13 smaller community based schools spread over 450,000 square kilometres. Indigenous ESL students make up nearly 100% of the population serviced by the majority of these schools. Schools range in size from 7 teacher schools to single teacher schools.
The remaining schools in the region also service remote, generally indigenous, communities of up to 1000 people. The schools vary from 1 teacher Primary schools to 10 teacher Community Education Centres offering educational services for Preschool, Primary, Secondary and TAFE students.
In general the schools in all locations are very well resourced and have the very latest in modern technology including electronic whiteboards and computer networks with reasonably reliable internet access.
Accommodation in each location varies depending on availability of vacant teacher housing (fully furnished), which in turn depends on the staffing situation at the school. Should housing be available it will be utilised on a shared basis. Should teacher housing not be available billeting in teacher housing, rooms in guest houses or self contained units at caravan parks could all be utilised. Backpacker accommodation will be used in Darwin.
The wonderful acceptance of us by the local communities and their generosity in sharing their culture is undoubtedly a highlight of the experience. The challenge to be able to engage the many ESL students in nearly all schools provides participants with great learning opportunities to benefit their future teaching.
One of the greatest strengths of this program is the sense of camaraderie developed across the whole group, as well as in the teams in particular locations. For many the experiences in these locations can be both challenging and inspiring at the same time. Often participants are confronted by their own previous assumptions and other perspectives portrayed in the media. For these reasons debriefing sessions are often undertaken at the end of each day, especially in the first few days of the experience in each location and again on return to Melbourne.
We visit the region toward the end of the dry season when generally there will have been no rain for the previous 5-6 months. The humidity is mild but greater than Melbourne and does increase during our time in the area. Temperatures overnight range from 15-25C and 30-40C during the day depending where in the region you are placed.
Katherine Region http://www.krol.com.au/
Katherine Primary Schools
Gunbalanya Community www.kunbarllanjnja.nt.gov.au/
DEET NT School Directory www.directory.deet.nt.gov.au/