By and large, people who live and work in the more remote areas of far north Queensland are swapping the comforts and choices of life in the big smoke for the beauty and freedom of life in the scrub. There are some things you just make do without. Luxuries like a restaurant, shops, and schools are a long hard drive or an expensive plane ride away.
But kids can’t do without an education. In remote FNQ, many children go to school on the phone – with the Cairns School of Distance Education. The School uses state of the art online and tele-conferencing equipment to deliver education from its base In Cairns to students wherever they are.
The School began life in 1972 as the Cairns School of the Air – with lessons delivered over two-way radio. The old short wave or HF sets could cover incredible distances. But the signal was sometimes very scratchy and prone to interference from, among other things, Taiwanese fishing boats. The School of the Air was a vital link to the outside world for kids and their families, especially when they were cut off by the wet season.
These days, the new technology has made distance education easier to access. And it will be able to offer even more when the National Broadband Network eventually rolls out to far-away FNQ.
In early December, the Cairns School of Distance Education celebrates its 40th anniversary. They’d love you to get involved.
Listen to Cairns School of Distance Education staff talk about work and life in what they call “the world’s biggest class-room”.
You heard Andrew Oliver, the principal of the Cairns School of Distance Education, and teachers Nevis Todd and Dale Brouwer.