Patricia recognised for championing bush education

Order of Australia accolade for Katherine teacher Patricia Elliot


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LOCAL HERO: This award comes at an appropriate time for Patricia Elliot who retired from teaching in December.

LOCAL HERO: This award comes at an appropriate time for Patricia Elliot who retired from teaching in December.

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Patricia Elliot's service to education in remote areas has seen her appointed a member in the Order of Australia (AM).

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If humble had a face it would be veteran Katherine teacher Patricia Elliot.

Her significant service to education of children in remote areas and to the community of Katherine, has seen her appointed a member in the Order of Australia (AM).

Mrs Elliot prefers to heap praise on her colleagues, friends and family, but her role as an advocate for remote education equity is undeniable. 

“I feel like I am not deserving of this type of recognition any more than any other parent who has educated their child remotely,” Mrs Elliott said. 

“Heavens, I was surprised to receive the letter, I have no idea who nominated me.”

Her long list of community involvement includes roles with the Isolated Children's Parents' Association, Callistemon House and the Katherine Show Society.

Mrs Elliott has lived in Katherine for the past 20 years. 

She moved to town after spending decades on her Birrimba cattle station about 300km away. 

“When we moved onto the property, it was a vacant block of land,” Mrs Elliott said. 

“We lived under a tree for a year. Those were exciting times.”

Mrs Elliott played mother and teacher to all eight of her children, while living on the remote cattle station. 

“We had to do correspondence through Adelaide before they had School of the Air,” Mrs Elliott said. 

“The main problem parents have as teachers is they feel they cannot play the dual role.

“More often now parents pay governesses, but there are still many parents out there who enjoy the privilege of teaching their own children.”

Mrs Elliott first joined the Isolated Children's Parents' Association as a lone member in the 70s, before she co-founded the Katherine branch. 

“I was not the only one who helped get it started,” Mrs Elliott said. 

“There was a real need for better access to education for remote areas. We wanted to ensure our children were receiving the same opportunities as those in urban areas. 

“There was a real downturn in the rural industry at that time and there was a lack of access to extra curricular activities,” she said. 

Patricia Elliot's service to education in the NT has seen her appointed a member in the Order of Australia (AM).

Patricia Elliot's service to education in the NT has seen her appointed a member in the Order of Australia (AM).

Mrs Elliott was not exaggerating. 

Her children would get one or two chances a year to meet up with someone outside of the immediate family. 

“While access has improved, there are still gaps that need to be addressed. Technology is a big part of that, if we can send things into space, surely we can improve technology access for rural people,” Mrs Elliott said. 

Mrs Elliott said one of her biggest triumphs was securing boarding facilities in Katherine for high school students living remotely. 

“We really pressured the government to set up a facility here in Katherine. We drove the government nuts by lobbying for a boarding house,” Mrs Elliott said. 

Watching kids develop, watching them become beautiful human beings is so rewarding. - Patricia Elliott

“Eventually they started to put money into it and Katherine House eventually became Callistamon House. 

“I certainly did not do it on my own.”

Her passion is clear when she begins to talk about her past students. 

“I love the challenge of middle years and secondary teaching. It is when their minds begin to really develop and start making their own decisions,” Mrs Elliott said. 

“Watching kids develop, watching them become beautiful human beings is so rewarding. 

“Often we only hear negative stories about young people, but there are so many success stories which are not celebrated enough,” she said.

“There are a tremendous amount of things Katherine schools can be proud about.”

Her advice to young teachers starting out is build relationships with the parents of their students. 

“Come into it with an open mind and know that you are needed here,” she said. 

“The children here are no different to anywhere else in Australia. They are little sponges who want to learn. 

“People will hang around if they feel wanted.”

Mrs Elliott’s students have gone on to become lawyers, doctors, pilots and engineers, or as she puts it “just about any career you can name”.

The story Patricia recognised for championing bush education first appeared on North Queensland Register.

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