The Hamiltonian Solution

On the topic of payments to encourage Indigenous children to stay in school, I received a fascinating email from Chris Cullinan, which he’s kindly allowed me to reprint.

Greetings Andrew,

Saw an article in the Melbourne Age which highlighted your belief that one way to keep Koori students in school was to pay.

Back in the late 1960s/ early 1970s the Hamilton, Vic. Apex Club paid for aborigional students  to continue studies at Heywood High School. The meat works at nearby Portland offered seasonal employment and once the killing line accelerated most low achievers left school. If a lad/lass was over 14 they offered paid work. The season lasted about 3-4 months and then all became unemployed.

The Club provided funding. The School Principal selected the students. A weekly payment was made in cash direct to the parents. No accounting was made where it was spent. The Principal had to confirm, in writing, that the student not only attended but made a determined effort to learn.

Within a year the policy needed amendment. The Principal was faced with obviously ill students being forced to attend class so that the parents received the weekly payment. Policy was amended to permit the Principal’s discretion.

Left the Hamilton area in 1972 so am not aware if this program continued. But by all accounts it encouraged two Koori students to stay until at least year 11.

Your idea is well worth an extended trial.

~ Chris Cullinan

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