Teachers are being evacuated from a North Queensland school for the second time in two weeks.
The 25 educators, who had chosen to return to the school after the first evacuation, are being flown out of the township for their own safety and may not return for several weeks.
In the latest incident, children as young as six allegedly tried to steal a car and also threw rocks at houses and security guards at 3am on Wednesday morning – attacks which the state’s police commissioner said appeared to be targeted.
Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) president Kevin Bates told The Educator that the evacuation of the teachers, principal and some school support staff has been accompanied by the closure of the school.
“On this occasion the employer has acted to bring teachers out rather than the teachers asking to be brought out,” he said.
“Alternative education programs are being offered by the Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC). Other alternatives are also being considered for the next few weeks.”
Bates added that a wide range of potential solutions are being canvassed and the visit by the Premier and the Education Minister will help to bring “a sharp focus” on the issues of the community as a whole that have so adversely effected teachers.
State Premier set to intervene
The state’s Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, will head to the troubled Cape community on Friday for an emergency meeting.
“It is very important that we address immediately today the issues that are happening in Aurukun – the safety of staff in Aurukun and the safety of the community has always been number one,” she said.
“I have been advised that the teachers are feeling unsafe, so we are going to get the teachers out.”
“I have had a really long discussion this morning with the mayor and the mayor is very, very happy to receive us later on this week. He is going to call a big community meeting and I will be there listening to what the community has to say.”
Palaszczuk added that the state government needs to have a stronger presence in the troubled town in order to rebuild its community and prevent further outbreaks of violence.
In the meantime, an experienced principal and two teachers will travel to Aurukun on Monday to support students in the school’s distance education program.
Calls for overhaul of Indigenous leadership
On Tuesday, Cape York’s Indigenous leader, Noel Pearson, called for an overhaul of leadership in Indigenous communities, pointing to the Aurukun crisis as proof that the local government alone was not the best model.
Pearson, chairman of the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy, told The Australian that women’s groups, traditional owners and elders needed more formal responsibility to work alongside councils.
“We need to revisit the whole question about the appropriateness of leadership structures in communities,” he said.
“Roads, rates and rubbish are just one aspect of the service provision needed in communities; social leadership is required as well. I really think the women have got to be empowered to take more leadership in the community.”
Government being ‘controlled by troublemakers’
The Wik women's group, the traditional owners, are outraged and have released an unnamed statement out of fear of retribution.
“We have 10 to 15 teenagers controlling the Government like puppeteers,” the women said in a statement.
“These kids have worked out that they can carjack the school principal and suddenly they can control the town.”