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A letter to the editor

A letter to the editor
Three hikers at Bald Hill Lookout, Wollongong, New South Wales, in 1932, National Library of Australia.
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A Galah reader from distant shores writes in with thoughts about the universality of small communities and her shock at Australia's class divide.

Words Faye Tudor

Dear Annabelle,

I’m a new Australian and I have picked up my first copy of Galah. I bought it because I want to learn about rural Australia. I want to educate myself on the issues that face small communities across the country. Galah seems a great place to start.

I didn’t expect to find anything that I would relate to—after all, I’m from very distant shores. How is it, then, that I’m sitting here with this magazine that seems to have been written for me?

I opened up to your editor’s letter about community, which described exactly my experience of living in a small town in rural Scotland. From shopping in the same supermarket as the local police constable and the head teacher of the only secondary school in town, to knowing most of the people you walk past on a wander up the main street, it was all so familiar. I’ve sat on committees with people I’d never normally mix with, committees being a key part of rural culture because without locals working to achieve things for their community, much less would happen. We’re all in it together.

I also related to the impact of family history in small communities. My husband’s late parents were both teachers, and we were always bumping into people who would regale us with fond stories of being taught by one or other of them. This is a lovely thing, especially when you’re grieving their loss. There isn’t anything to beat that sense of community, that willingness to know and to support our neighbours. It also means that when I went to hire a whipper snipper and I gave the assistant my address, he replied, “Oh no, you’ll need something much larger than this for that garden.”

And so, eyes brimming at the memories of what we’ve left behind, I fell on Gabrielle Chan’s examination of the class divide in Australian education. Once again, commonality slapped me in the face. I worked in the education sector in rural Scotland, managing three of the colleges in our 10-strong network. College in Scotland is what is known here as TAFE.

Having secured a role at Bendigo TAFE, I find myself both entirely at home and taken aback at the clear class divide in Australian education. The challenges are the same in rural Scotland—how do small rural schools offer the same breadth and depth of opportunity to pupils as would be found in schools in Scotland’s central belt?

When I started my new job, I began learning about the Australian education system. I’d listened to our friends’ discussions and was a bit alarmed by the strong sense of competitiveness; the pursuit of educational attainment seems relentless in a way that is quite alien to me. As Gabrielle notes, the inequalities are baked into the system.

It’s ultimately no different to the Scottish system in that the inequality there is plain for all to see, and this is because educational inequality is so tightly linked to societal inequality. Young people whose parents can afford private school, music lessons and multiple sporting activities, to ferry them to events and competitions, to take them to museums, galleries and the theatre, and pay for a tutor to help them achieve, inevitably have a level of advantage that many parents simply cannot afford. This is the same the world over—we’re all in it together.

Faye Tudor

Please send your letters to the editor to info@galahpress.com we love hearing from you.