The Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association is celebrating 50 years of advocacy while acknowledging there is still much to do to achieve equality for rural and remote students.

Story Annabelle Brayley  Photo Jesse Donoghue, Sweetspotphotography

When Wally Mitchell accepted the presidency of the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (ICPA) at its first federal meeting in Bourke in north-west NSW, in 1971, he could never have imagined he’d be opening the organisation’s 50th conference using Zoom via a laptop. 

In fact, Wally had never used Zoom before he was beamed into the Civic Centre in Longreach, Qld, in November 2021 for ICPA50. Back in his day, he was just grateful that the women on his telephone exchange left their party lines plugged in when they closed at 10pm, so that he and federal secretary, the late Pat Edgley, could strategise far into the night.

Pat is acknowledged as the catalyst for the establishment of ICPA when she placed an ad in the Bourke newspaper in April 1971, calling for the district’s parents to attend a meeting to discuss the threatened closure of the Bourke School Term Hostel. The challenges those parents faced resonated and, within six months, members of 17 fledgling branches from across NSW, Queensland and SA packed their swags and bags, piled into one car from each branch to save on fuel, and motored to Bourke for their first federal meeting.

This story excerpt is from Issue #141

Outback Magazine: February/March 2022