This is a rather pathetic piece of elephantine invisibility. Both Walgett and its school have a large Aboriginal population. And, largely because of the sense of grievance instilled into them by Leftists, Aborigines in isolated communities tend to be angry people who act out their anger. With other Aboriginal communities only an enhanced police presence has served to calm things down. Walgett needs that too. A police presence in schools is common in America. It is needed in the Walgett school as well
Walgett Community College has been notoriously violent for years. Why hasn't that changed?
Walgett Community College, the only high school in the northern NSW town of 2,145, has seen 20 principals come and go over the past 15 years
But there is high turnover among the student population too, with young kids witnessing and being subjected to acts that have left them traumatised and unwilling to return.
Felicity Forbes, now 15, said she had never experienced a panic attack in her life before she started high school, but that changed within her first week at the college.
"There was a lockdown, everyone was stationed up against the wall," the 15-year-old said. "The main kid in the situation was very violent. "It was terrifying as an 11-year-old to be seeing those kinds of things.
"During a lockdown there's constant beeping. "Students are told to pull blinds down, lock doors and have no interaction with anyone outside."
Felicity developed severe anxiety during her four years at the school and now, along with her sister, is learning at home via distance education.
Now in Year 11, Felicity says hearing an alarm tone or the sound of something smashing can trigger a panic attack — and that she is struggling to catch up with the curriculum.
"It definitely impacted my education," she said. "When there was a lockdown, that would usually be it for the day."
Slammed onto concrete
Another Walgett student, 16-year-old Anicia Brown, left town after being bashed at school. "Anicia's about 1,500 kilometres away with my parents in Emerald, central Queensland," her mother Kylie McKenzie said. "She was assaulted at school twice.
"To have to basically get her out of town so that she could live a normal teenager's life without the worry of being bashed is really hard. "It was hard on her and it was hard on us, but we've had to do it for her mental health."
Ms McKenzie says she has seen a video of her daughter being attacked by students after school. "They threw her down on the concrete, they had hold of her head and were kicking into her," she said. "It was really horrible and she was terrified.
"Her mental health has been absolutely shot, knowing that if she comes home, she's being told, 'We're going to get you'."
A fight 'nobody wants'
Parents say an independent investigation must be undertaken to stop the cycle of disadvantage, and say they do not understand why the college's issues have gone unaddressed for so long.
Sick of waiting, Felicity's mum Rebecca Trindall is campaigning for students to be able to attend school in Lightning Ridge.
She wants legislation to change to allow out-of-area enrolments and a direct bus route for the 150-kilometre round trip.
"It seems that nobody wants to be part of this fight," Ms Trindall said. "I think it might turn into a race issue, but let's be clear — it's not about being black or white. "It's a community issue, it's an education issue.
"These kids deserve better — Walgett needs a high school, but they need to clean it out. "They need to get it right, because we're losing precious time."
NSW Department of Education data shows 149 students were enrolled at the high school in 2021. Only two attended the school for 90 per cent or more of the year.
Ms Trindall said a lack of funding was not to blame and said she wanted the efficacy of the programs at the school to be investigated. "The money's there, the programs are there," she said. "Where are the outcomes? Where's the change?
"I look forward to a full investigation, because it's actually disgusting to have all the resources and no outcomes."
No comment from Minister
State MP Roy Butler is backing the calls for an independent review. He says his correspondence with NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell has been "fluffy".
"She says, 'Yes, we're working on fixing it, we're addressing the problems'," Mr Butler said. "But on the ground, for those teachers, students and parents — they're not seeing those changes."
Mr Butler said an investigation would be best led by someone who understood the system and had lived experience.
"Education would contract the suitable person, terms of reference would be established in consultation with the Department of Education and community," he said.
"The person I would suggest is a retired principal who would be arm's length from department."
Mr Butler said it would take an "independent set of eyes to get to the bottom of it".
"Ask the staff — 'Where is it going wrong? Where are the blockages?'," he said.
"Why are we stuck here and why have we been stuck here for so long?"
Ms Mitchell and the Department of Education declined interview requests.
In a statement, an education department spokesperson said the department was committed to providing staff and students with a high-quality local school.
"In partnership with the local community, we are committed to resolving some unique challenges the school is facing," the spokesperson said.