Bernie Ryder

Bernie Ryder

In the second half of 1995 I was approached by Ken Wyatt, the then Director of Aboriginal Education of Western Australia, to see if I would be interested in establishing a new education programme for the Roebourne, Wickham and Karratha Aboriginal children.

The aim of the programme was to assist these Aboriginal children to complete their secondary education at a level that was equal to the non-Aboriginal children and enable them to enter into tertiary studies and also into apprenticeships and traineeships. This also came about as a result of the feasibility study that was carried out in 1995 in Roebourne as to the reasons why Aboriginal students in the region were not reaching their full potential and how to overcome the problem.

I accepted the position and was guided by Mr Wyatt to assist the Aboriginal families to fully comprehend the results of the study, to understand how their children could benefit from such a programme, and how they could play a more prominent role in the education of their children.

I was suitably equipped with the appropriate resources to spend some considerable time with the community both in the Roebourne Shire and some nearby areas where relatives of the children resided.

I was placed in the then Karratha District Education Office with the majority of the time to be devoted to the new education programme. This was then to come back to 50 per cent of the time for the programme and 50 per cent for the Education Department.

It was through having a District Director such as Mr Phil Harvey that I was able to then start assisting with the establishment of the programme with the representatives of the major funding bodies, Mark Simpson, Hamersley Iron as it was then and Mark Whisson from the Education Department, whilst I was still bringing the members of the community onside.

When the students were selected we soon found that we did not have the appropriate number of students from Roebourne so it was then decided that the programme should widen its range to Wickham District High School and a mixture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from the two secondary schools.

Whilst selecting the students we then found that we needed students from Roebourne, Wickham and Karratha. It the worked out to be 10 students from Roebourne/Wickham and 10 students from Karratha. It also worked out to be 10 boys and 10 girls.

Once the students commenced participating in the programme my time was reduced to 0.5 of my time in the project and then 0.5 for the District Education Office.

It was then pointed out to me by the Aboriginal parents that they missed my involvement in the programme and could not understand why I was moved to District Office as they did not have somebody there whom they could confide in.

Eventually I was moved back into the Pilbara District Education Office and remained there until I retired from the Education Department in 2004.

I enjoyed my time in the project but feel that I could have done a heck of a lot more but I remain thankful for the opportunity I was provided with in the establishment of this program and wish it well for the future.