The Kimberley: A small big place

Here’s the physical area of the Kimberley, the breathtaking northernmost region of Western Australia where I’ve lived and worked for the last 6-and-a-bit years, courtesy of Google:

Here are a few other well-known jurisdictions for comparison:

Although the place is vast, it’s also rather small in terms of the degrees of separation amongst it’s inhabitants, as I was reminded last Friday.

Each year the Clontarf Foundation host a Year 11 and 12 senior leaders camp in Broome. Senior school students from Kununurra, Halls Creek, Derby and Fitzroy Crossing join their peers in Broome as the boys get ready to work towards their education goals for the year. One of the elements of the camp is for the guys to do some volunteer work, and each year we’re very happy to host one of the groups at Broome North PS.

As I greeted this year’s bunch in the front office I noticed we had boys from a couple of the places I’ve previously worked in the Kimberley. To the lad in the Kununurra shirt I asked, ‘Which footy team do you play for back home?’ to which he gave me a one word answer, ‘Crows’. I followed with something like, ‘Ah, the best team! That’s who I played for when I lived there’ to which he instantly replied, ‘Yeah, I know you!’. Naturally, young adults at 17 look very different to when they were kids at 11, so I started racking my brain to try and recall who this fella was. I was then fortunate to get his surname correct before he filled me in with the first name. We’ll go with the pseudonym Frankie here.

After walking the boys down to the Year 1/2 area so they could help our kids with some Science activities, I realised just who Frankie was. I recalled helping out at footy training each week with the Clontarf crew when he was a Year 5/6 student. I then remembered that Frankie’s actually made an appearance in this very blog before! Here’s the picture of him proudly holding a very large barra as an 11 year old in a post from October, 2013:

And here’s Frankie as a young man now, helping out in Science class:

While the boys were working I printed the barra photo ready to show Frankie. When they came back through the office I made sure to first ask him which of his uncles and brothers are still playing footy for the Crows. (The photo at the end of this post, taken prior to the 2013 grand final, has some of the most talented guys I’ve ever played footy with. Most are family for Frankie.) I then pulled out the barra photo, and instantly got a quiet smile and a nod of ‘wow’. The other lads were pretty keen to have a look, and then dish out kudos in the form of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ for such a great catch. Frankie, eyes fixed on the pic, said quietly, ‘That was my first ever big barra’ and then didn’t to be asked twice when I asked if he wanted to keep the copy.

I love that connections made with kids and families 6 years ago still hold currency today. It’s a great reminder for all of us as educators that the moments of interaction in the short term can mean plenty to others in the long term, even without us knowing it. And you just never know when a previous student will walk through the door, even from 1000km away!

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