Aurukun: Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson hits out at 'hyenas' attacking education system

Aurukun: Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson hits out at ‘hyenas’ attacking education system

The debate over education in Aurukun has become politically toxic and threatens to undermine the long-term welfare of children who are battling crippling disadvantage, according to Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson.

Mr Pearson flew in to Aurukun in an attempt to reconcile the future of the school with Aboriginal leaders in the town who are calling for change.

It comes after Federal MP Warren Entsch labelled the introduction of Direct Instruction, championed by Mr Pearson, a “failed experiment”.

Direct Instruction is taught at four Cape York schools who have opted into the program run by the Pearson-founded Cape York Academy.

The academy was provided $8.3 million between 2014-15 by the Queensland Government to operate the schools.

The department employs the teachers and manages the infrastructure.

Mr Pearson flew in to Aurukun on Thursday to hold talks with mayor Dereck Walpo, councillors and members of the Families Responsibilities Commission.

He described the meeting as “a very productive and positive discussion”.

Mr Walpo is calling for the re-introduction of secondary schooling at Aurukun and a return to mainstream Queensland Education Department-provided education.

But Mr Pearson said schooling at Aurukun prior to 2010 had been a failure.

“I’m in this business not to do what educators do with ordinary kids and get them to succeed, I’m here for the disadvantaged kids, the kids that would have no chance if we continued to feed them the kind of swill that they were getting before we took over in 2010,” Mr Pearson said.

“It was a disgraceful scene before then.

“These children were not getting the education they needed that they were entitled to, and the system was an absolute pigsty.”

Mr Pearson said the debate that has broken out over education in Aurukun in the past two weeks has been one of the most toxic he has encountered in 25 years in Aboriginal affairs politics.

“I’ve felt for the past week-and-a-half like I’ve been in some kind of Discovery Channel episode where these hyenas come out of the bush and start attacking the wounded impala,” he said.

“It’s one of the most extraordinary episodes I’ve ever been through.”

Reviewers at the Queensland Education Department are currently undertaking a review into Aurukun’s school.

“I’m very confident that the review will show the progress these kids are making,” Mr Pearson said.

“These kids come from very challenged backgrounds.

“It’s like they’re carrying a lot of lead in their backpack and they still keep going and they still finish the race.”

Last week, Mr Entsch said the troubled youths were products of Mr Pearson’s school system and it should be reviewed.

“I find it amazing people like Noel [Pearson] are quick to walk away from this and blame the State Government, blame the Federal Government, blame the police for this,” he said.

“We need to have a look at the effectiveness of the programs and the impact that those programs have had on the community, and I think that’s where we need to start.”



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