This study examines the provision of education to a remote place, notably north Queensland, between 1919 and 1939- It does so by using the techniques of historical geography to illuminate the educational provision given to northern children during this period.
The geography of north Queensland is approached by using theories of regional analysis elaborated by D.W. Meinig which result in the observation that the north consisted of several separate sub-regions, namely the coastal strip, the highland plateau within the Great Dividing Range, the region surrounding the Gulf of Carpentaria and the dry plains. The study is chiefly concerned with the most remote areas, thus excluding the coastal strip. The overall geography of these sub-regions encouraged the development of different economic bases and lifestyles, varying from mining camps, to isolated stations, to small permanent farms and to centralised service towns. These variations are made apparent before the educational developments of this period are Introduced and analysed.
The study establishes that there are various factors which affect educational Isolation, including; social climate, political climate, educational merit and administrative feasibility. The combination of these factors results In policy towards the education of Isolated children being adopted by the State Government and the churches which became Involved In education. The general policy adopted at the State level by Government or churches was modified to some extent by the types of isolation affecting north Queensland. These Included; geographic, social, economic, professional and ethnic/cultural isolation. The modified policy resulted in educational practice found in north Queensland.
Isolation is a complex concept not well understood by educational planners who regarded distance from Brisbane as the chief measurement of isolation. The result of a simplistic understanding was, when tempered by prevailing social, economic and political attitudes, the provision of education which took little notice of the peculiar conditions in north Queensland. Central control and economic feasibility dominated educational policy making whereas school practice was characterised by uniformity and Inflexibility. These features received extra support during the period of study from political parties whose chief concerns lay with economic management, particularly during the depression of the 1930s. Yet, despite the difficulties caused by drought and depression, centrally managed change affected educational provision for isolated children. The principal events included the Introduction of the Correspondence School, the termination of the Itinerant teacher system and the commencement of radio broadcasting for specific educational purposes.
Finally, the study demonstrated that geographical regional analysis provides Insights into educational provision for isolated children. It does so by highlighting the fact that different communities live in areas whose geographic, social, economic and historical backgrounds are sufficiently divergent to warrant a very flexible educational provision which takes their differences into account.