Social history
Shelters: from rock shelters to iron roofs
Wire to satellite
School of the Air
The mail run

School of the Air

Far from schools, station children still had to be educated. The Western Australian Correspondence School was established in 1918. This was at first done by sending lessons and schoolwork back and forth in the mail. The School of the Air was established by the Western Australian Education Department in 1959 and run by the Distance Education Unit.

Parents (usually the mothers) taught the children in a classroom at the station, under the guidance of teachers based at Meekatharra. Students used the Royal Flying Doctor Service radio for sessions with their teachers. Pedal radios were used at first, until electricity generators became common.

Mrs Vera Mason recalls the early days as a mother teaching her sons by School of the Air in the 1950s when the Masons owned Whitewells Station. They were living on the neighbouring Wanarra Station which they were managing at the time. Here is an excerpt from an interview of Vera Mason by Hannah Eames in October, 2003:

They started the radio school and they put it on for three months to check to see if it would be any good, as a sort of test.

And did it work out? Did the kids enjoy it? Oh yes it was great. There were only 13 kids on it to start with, and mine were four of those. Not all of them, Leigh and Robert the older ones were on it to start with. It was such a real success, it just went on then.

I had a little record in there - the chap to start off with was Smedley, his name was, he made the record - and each of the different kids saying “Good morning Mr Smedley”, and he gave each of them, there was only about 12 kids, each of them a little record.

A recording, of your kids? Yes and I’ve got it in there too. Leigh’s the eldest, and even now he’s embarrassed about it. Don’t be so stupid I’d say, that’s history!

I had to teach them myself, there was no school, and they all went through primary school without a teacher, just me, and the Education Department sent me the papers and that sort of thing. So they sent you sort of guidelines? For the different kids, you know, and that was the beginning of the radio school.

“Good morning Mr Smedley!” when they started the radio school. Mr Smedley taught the kids for the whole region over the radio? Oh no, he was just the checker, he got on the radio and checked the call up: “Come on Leigh, say something on the radio.”

Well I couldn’t go anwhere, no social life, too far away, so I taught the kids, and they all did extremely well. That was primary school, and when they were old enough to go to high school I sent them down to Perth. I went to Perth and lived there for eight years while the boys went to high school and agricultural college.
Vera Mason, 4 October 2003, interviewed by Hannah Eames

Since satellite communications were installed, the two way radio has been replaced by computers and email as the means of communication between teacher and student. In 2006 the Western Australian Government announced that the School of the Air base would be moved from Meekatharra to Geraldton.