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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


A 2000 km Road Trip From Perth to Kalgoorlie Via Esperance And Back:: Addressing regional disadvantage in education

Helen Liedel.

Western Australia has a population of 0.7 people per sq km. This compares with a national figure of 2.0 per sq km and a world average of 45 per sq km. Of the total population of 1.9 million in this isolated state, 73% (1.4 million) live in the environs of metropolitan Perth. This demographic begs the question of equity and access to education for the population living outside the metropolitan area. In 2000, the participation rate for rural and isolated students in WA was 11.7% compared with a national average for rural and isolated students of 19.4%. This presentation reports on action research seeking to increase the proportion of students from the rural and isolated Goldfields Region coming to Curtin University. This largely desert area, starting some 500 kilometres east of Perth, has a Curtin University presence through a campus at Kalgoorlie and a sub-campus at Esperance. ‘Locals’ with in-depth and sophisticated local knowledge but lacking the authority of a professional qualification often staff the human services industry. Research suggests that for people in rural and isolated areas their ability to access higher education and complete such programs is affected by more than just distance, isolation and a lack of a supportive network. Other barriers relate to the cultural beliefs held by rural Australians. Beliefs such as that university is not ‘for the likes of me’ or ‘you have to be smart’. The cross-generational strength of such beliefs, which transcend racial and gender divides, mean possibilities of university education remain underexplored. With a visual backdrop of the territory covered in a two thousand kilometre road trip, the presentation will report on conversations held with human service providers, regional social work students and educators on how to improve participation rates locally.


Helen Liedel  (Australia)
Associate Lecturer
Department of Social Work & Social Policy
Curtin University of Technology

Helen Liedel (B.A. of Applied Sc (Social Work), Grad Dip Bus (Mgte), MComm (Mgte))
has over twenty years experience working in public sector human services in Western Australia. Since 1999 she has been an educator with Curtin University. In this she draws on her involvement with a number of research and project work related to child protection, substitute care for children, prison management, diversity and equity and workplace flexibility. Helen has particular interest in rural social work practice and delivering services equitably and accessibly across diverse settings.

  • Access and Equity
  • Rural and Remote
  • Barriers to University Participation
  • Addressing Disadvantage
  • New Tools for Learning
  • Diversity

(30 min Conference Paper, English)