Lockhart River Learning

Despite living in Australia all my life, I’ve never visited any Indigenous communities, or really even ventured too far off the beaten track. So, when the opportunity rose to join a trip to Lockhart River, an Indigenous community in Cape York in Far North Queensland, I jumped at the chance.

The trip was organised by Bond University as part of its leadership activities with the Alliance of Girls Schools, so 14 women and two very brave men found themselves on a Dash-8  flying in and out of some of the smallest airports I’ve ever encountered.


The moment we landed we were greeted with incredibly warm welcomes from this lovely open-hearted community, who generously shared their time, food and most importantly, stories, with us over the next four days.

With most of our party being school principals, there was a heavy educational focus, and we were all struck by the important and increasing role of the school as a community hub, and the significant work being done by the council and other community bodies in supporting this and prioritising the importance of education.


I was previously unaware that the only way for children to access secondary education was to move away from their community to attend boarding school, and wasn’t at all surprised to hear that was a very difficult adjustment for all parties concerned — children, parents, the local community and the boarding school.  It was difficult to imagine having this as my only choice for my own 12-yea- old daughter, and while there are no easy solutions, it seemed clear that there’s a need to explore other options.

No easy solutions was a message that kept replaying in our minds all weekend. As leaders of schools and businesses, all of the members of our group are used to having to solve problems on a regular basis and had to keep reminding ourselves that this trip was not about us flying in and identifying potential solutions, but building relationships with the community which would allow us to work with them on an ongoing basis, and support them as they continue to develop ideas and initiatives that work in their culture and environment.


A great start was made in building those relationships, with the community hosting us in a range of environments and forums.  The school runs a small secondary student program for those who have not been able to transition to a boarding school environment and those students ran pop-up outdoor restaurants to host lunches over the weekend, the first in a spectacular beachside location followed up with a beautiful rainforest setting the next.

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My Google Glass was a great source of interest for the children (and a good few of the adults as well!) and we had a great time playing around with them. The kids took some great pictures running through the rainforest, and loved showing them off to their parents.



This trip was a wonderful illustration of the value of taking time out to share stories, listen and learn.  Not only did we learn so much from the people of Lockhart River who shared their stories with us so generously, but as you might imagine with 14 women travelling together we also found plenty of stories to share and learnings to be had  (the men had more than a few to contribute as well!).

I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to have visited this beautiful part of Australia for the first time, and look forward to an ongoing relationship with the people of Lockhart River.

(Thank you to the lovely Karen Ransome who took all of the photos I have included in here)


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Older Story:

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July 12, 2014

2 comments on “Lockhart River Learning

  1. Dear Cathie,

    I am consistently shocked as well as disgusted by the ignorance of white fellas in this country – the education offered to (remote) black fellas too often causes juvenile suicides and certainly angst and unhappiness by alienation from their families, cultures and communities – this is the case with not only this tiny (idyllic) spot of Lockhart River but all along the QLD Coast over the Cape to the Torres Strait Islands and into the Gulf Coastline and its islands and all along Arnhem Land and out to the Kimberly Coast and all down the WA Coast (having a myriad more idyllic spots) and these are only the Indigenous Saltwater Peoples.

    There Is Absolutely No Need for Students to Travel to archaic Traditional Schools anymore – eLearning or Online Learning Travels To Students which also gives them the opportunity to learn new Digital Literacy Skills which surpasses the outdated chalk and talk Traditional Literacy and is so highly valued, useful and necessary to all Modern Successful Industry. Traditional learning methods have bogged down National progress so significantly in this increasingly competitive world economy.

    When will Aboriginal Knowledge (perhaps the oldest Civilization in the world) and their Languages be encapsulated and embraced by Mainstream Education to make this a much Smarter Country in so many more diverse ways – as it has never earned this reputation or respect globally ever before.

    Stony River NT

    1. Hi Stony River,
      Thanks for your message. I agree that applying new technologies to learning and allowing students the opportunity to stay in their communities has to be a better option than sending children away from their families and broader community. This trip was definitely a big eye opener for me, and I am very grateful to the people of Lockhart River for welcoming us and sharing their stories with us. I certainly learnt a lot, but the biggest thing I learnt was how little I actually know.
      Thank you for taking the time to write,

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