Alice Springs author Tanya Heaslip remembers thinking her primary school teacher was like the Queen.
- Alice Springs School of the Air first began broadcasting lessons over the airwaves on June 8, 1951
- The school’s 100 students are spread across 1.3 million square kilometres
- Current principal Kerrie Russell says technology has been the “standout change”
As School of the Air student living on a remote cattle station, she only saw her teacher and classmates in person once a year.
“We’d cling on to our mother’s skirts because we were so shy. We weren’t used to other people, other kids,” Ms Heaslip said.
“Mrs Hodder, the teacher, was there waiting and we sort of felt like we were going to curtsy because she was like the Queen.
It’s now 70 years since Alice Springs School of the Air’s first broadcast on June 8, 1951.
The iconic school has nearly 100 students enrolled this year. They are spread out across the Northern Territory and beyond in a broadcast area spanning 1.3 million square kilometres.
From radio to video conferencing
Technology has changed since Ms Heaslip was a student at the school in the late ’60s and early ’70s — when students could only hear one another and their teacher over the airwaves.
“We could hear their voices. We could paint pictures of their faces around their voices, but we didn’t know them,” Ms Heaslip said.
“We didn’t know what the teacher looked like, we could just hear her. Her voice would boom over the static.”
Current principal of Alice Springs School of the Air Kerrie Russell has seen the technology evolve from radio transmissions to video conferencing via satellite internet since her own children did remote schooling.
“What’s amazing about this school is, no matter the technology — and there are many limitations to it — our students keep on learning and doing well,” Ms Russell said.
Year Four student Reuben Driver does his classes from home on Elkedra Station, 400 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs.
“It’s pretty fun,” he said. “I love doing history and English and I like doing all the cool stuff, [such as doing] experiments.”
“I [also] get to help my dad in the cattle yard, muster sometimes in the shed.
“Sometimes I go in the bull-catcher with Dad or in the helicopter.”