They could have said no but they didn’t and the Blackall community opened up to us. I was attending the 20th annual Queensland Regional, Rural and Remote Women’s Network conference in September. I brought my two sons. My eldest was in his first year of school in Sydney. Kirstie from the Blackall State School answered my call. She was also part of the conference organising committee. She understood and put me in touch with Miss Ross, of Prep R. Emails followed and a plan came together.
Blackall State School was so generous in its welcome of my son and of us. For his stay they planned an excursion to show my city based son the origins of the town and region at Ram Park. They organised a whip cracking demonstration by young students who were nowhere near as tall as the whips they artfully wielded. They assigned him a buddy. My son’s name was even on the whiteboard about what was happening during the week. And to add to his delight, a Tuck Shop lunch was ordered.
In the weeks – and months – leading to our highly planned outback adventure, he said he wanted to make a good impression at school. He was insistent that he wear his school uniform. So his Canterbury Public School uniform travelled to the outback too.
As part of Prep R, he joined the school in singing the National Anthem for the Governor of Queensland, Ms Penelope Wensley AC. As soon as he arrived at school, all the kids crossed back across the town’s main street, Shamrock Street, part of the Matilda Highway. They were guided by a much admired Lollipop lady as my son had never seen one in action. They were off to the Blackall Cultural Centre. He didn’t look back and I’m sure his confidence came from such a warm welcome. That said, the night before he had asked me if the kids in Prep R would know the same National Anthem that he knew.
In front of the Governor and around 200 conference participants, junior students of Blackall State School and St Joseph’s Primary School came together to sing. It was then back to school for his excursion and the rest of the day. At 5 to 3 I was at school, waiting, with other mums. As I walked past the window of his classroom I saw a very quiet focused Prep R working on their maths. When the school bell rang my son tumbled out. He said his thanks. He had hoped he’d be returning the next day. He showed me his work and was then careful to see it placed back in its plastic sleeve. As a small way of saying thanks we made a donation to the library.
Later that evening I saw Miss Ross at the conference dinner. Outside her teaching duties she remained an active and committed member of the Blackall community. She had started at the school five weeks earlier. She had moved from the coast but grew up in Longreach and knew the area well. Later when I was in Longreach visiting a mentor from years ago, I tell of our experiences in Blackall and his wife, a teacher, remembers fondly Miss Ross, “a star pupil”.
The closeness and connectedness of the community provided us with a wonderful opportunity. We were, through the generosity of the Blackall community invited in, briefly. The woman who sold my youngest a cup cake at the Bakery was the mum of my eldest’s buddy. The tourist information centre knew of my son’s visit and were nice enough to say they remembered him. Now back in Sydney, my son thinks warmly of his Blackall State School day and continues to practice with his very own stock whip.