Alice Springs (2)
Tuesday 20th December 2016
We arrived back in Alice Springs soon after 5p.m. and Chief pulled over to allow us to take photos at the “Welcome to Alice Springs” sign.
I am there, you just have to look closely for me! Back on the coach, Steve was having a little sulk about his phone, but don’t say I said so!
Back at the hotel we retrieved our bags from the luggage store and settled ourselves in our room. We hired a car for the following day – as we only had the one day to explore Alice Springs, and it was way too hot to do much walking, this seemed the best way. Plus we could drop the car back at the airport on Tuesday, saving ourselves $30 in shuttlebus fares, with no one-way fees to pay. So good all round.
After a quick wash and brush-up, we strolled out of the back gate of the hotel grounds onto the golf course and headed straight for the 19th hole, where we enjoyed a beer and fish and chip supper before heading back to our room for an early night. Boy did we sleep well!
Next morning I did a quick wash load at the laundry while Steve walked into town to collect the car. No need to use the tumble dryer here, the washing was dry ten minutes after it was hung out! On his way out, Steve had bumped into Maryse and Christienne, the two French ladies with whom we had been neighbours both nights on the trip, who were sitting outside Reception pondering what to do until their coach picked them up at 4 p.m. Their plan had been to relax around the pool, but with temperatures already soaring and set to reach 40 degrees, they had abandoned that idea. We invited them to join us on a drive-around, and they were happy to.
First we went to see the Anzac memorial with its view out over the town.
The Anzac memorial stands on the top of Anzac hill. From here the McDonnell ranges can be seen surrounding the town.
Every direction we looked, the McDonnell ranges could be seen. The town is snuggled down in a valley, through which the Todd River (sometimes) flows.
It was way too hot to enjoy the view for too long, so we set off for the next stop – the School of the Air Visitor Centre. Now this I found very interesting. In 1944 Miss Adelaide Miethke, a member of the Council of the Flying Doctor Service of South Australia, suggested the idea of using two-way radio to give educational talks to children in outback regions. She had noticed the extreme shyness of outback children, and when, two years later she heard that a health talk had been broadcast by a nurse to mothers in isolated places, she thought, “if to mothers, then why not to children”?
When the idea was floated at a Council meeting, it blossomed into a “School of the Air”, whereby music, stories, news of the outside world and help with correspondence lessons could be brought to those in isolated places, and better still a breaking down of the feeling of isolation and a building of comradeship and community spirit. The first School of the Air lesson was broadcast in 1950. At first the broadcast was one-way, but gradually a two-way talk session was incorporated and the children began to want to meet the owners of the voices, and so in 1955 the first “Get Together” was arranged, with children travelling great distances to meet each other. For a whole week the children had help with lessons in the morning and spent the afternoons in activities together where they got to know each other and built friendships.
Back at their outposts, the children could now put a face to the names and voices, and the benefits of the “Get Together” were seen as so important that it became a yearly event. From those early days of pedal-driven radio communication and distance-learning materials delivered by plane , the School of the Air has developed until today the children benefit from computer technology and satellite communications. Throughout this time, the parents were not expected to bear the cost of equipment and materials – at first it was provided by sponsors, today it is financed by the State.
A pedal-driven radio – P.E. and maths in the same lesson!
Had it not been the school holidays we could have watched a live lesson, but instead we watched a recently recorded one. I was quite taken with this way of teaching – no behaviour problems as each child is in their own home with a carer! The children are able to put their hands up to talk to the teacher by clicking the “Pick me” icon on their screen. I would have loved to stay longer and find out if they can facilitate small group activities online, but I was aware that perhaps the rest of our own little group were not quite as interested as I was!
Celebrating 60 years of the Alice Springs School of the Air in 2011.
Next stop was lunch, which Maryse and Christienne treated us to, and which we took at the cafe at the Royal Flying Doctor museum. It was by now time to get the ladies back to the hotel in time to get ready for their coach pick-up.
With the ladies safely despatched, we headed off out again, this time into town, where we explored the centre by car before stopping at a mobile phone shop (yes, he is still sulking) where they would not look inside the phone without the insurer’s say-so. We then popped into one or two other shops, including Coles for tonight’s dinner, and then set off back to the hotel where we passed a very lazy hour in the swimming pool.
Then it was dinner, pack, bed and up this morning in time to check out and get to the airport for our midday flight to Brisbane via Sydney. I don’t know why they don’t go direct, but the upside was that we got a clear bird’s-eye view of the harbour bridge and opera house which was a real treat. We landed at Brizzie around 1730, got the train to Helensvale and an Uber back to the boat, tired but very, very happy. What a wonderful trip.