For everyone Book review: Outback Teacher, Sally Gare with Freda Marnie (Allen and Unwin)

In 1956, 20-year-old Sally Gare is fresh out of teachers college and off to work in a church-run Aboriginal mission more than 3000 kilometres from Perth, on the north coast of Western Australia.

Outback Teacher, told by Sally and former pupil Freda Marnie, documents what it was like teaching in the outback in the 1950s, where the class sizes comprised around 45 students of mixed age-groups, and lessons were interrupted by the excitement of watching the Royal Flying Doctor Service land.

Sally is a novelty on the hot, humid mission, and the kids hang around her little flat, keen for stories, games and company. In class, they have to make do with shared desks, the sports supplies are three small bouncy balls Sally brought with her, and her fellow teacher still uses the cane.

Although her story is told with a great deal of fondness, the challenges were real, and Sally’s role far exceeded the job of teacher.

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