If institutions like School of the Air are the wheels of remote education, the governesses in the class rooms are the axle.
A governess, or “govie”, is a hybrid between a primary school teacher and an outback nanny.
Laura Elworthy is 6-year-old Heath Haigh’s govie for the family company Murranji Water Drilling.
Ms Elworthy travels all over the country with the family camp as they drill for water in some of the most remote parts of Australia.
“We don’t have a routine, I guess. Heath doesn’t really have full days of school,” she said.
Like most governesses Ms Elworthy is fresh out of school with limited teaching background, handed the responsibility of wrangling Heath through his crucial early learning.
She said it was a challenge during her first year on the job.
Teacher becomes the student
Enter Kylie Jones, a teacher and former govie herself.
After noticing a trend of home tutors and remote kids falling behind she decided something needed to be done.
Via online videos and classes, Ms Jones has put together the Raise Education tutoring service to help families like the Haighs.
What sets her program apart from standard tutoring services is the focus on the governess rather than the student.
She says empowering them to teach their own classes is a long-term solution to kids struggling in remote classrooms.
“I support them, giving them the learning material to run those sessions [themselves],” Ms Jones said.
She has been helping to further the education of remote children for almost a year now, but it has not been as easy as one, two, three.
She said the financial aspect of the operation has been the major challenge.
“This is quite an expensive exercise, from wages to insurance to resources,” Ms Jones said.
At this stage, like Miss Honey from the Roald Dahl classic Matilda, much of the resources Ms Jones is offering to her clients is coming out of her own pocket.
A relief for remote parents
Danyelle Haigh is Heath’s mother and has been using Raise Education for 7 months.
She doubles as a truck driver, bore driller, cook, and of course the camp mum to Heath and his younger brother Theo.
She said she was concerned their lifestyle was causing Heath to fall behind.
“We were struggling, and when it came to the end of year one and getting his report card it was quite depressing,” Ms Haigh said.
However, after partnering Ms Elworthy with Raise Education at the beginning of the year, Ms Haigh said the improvement has been massive.
And for Ms Elworthy, Heath’s excitement for school has given her a lot of satisfaction in her work.
“His confidence has boosted a lot from just having the support that I can get. It benefits him as well,” she said.