The 2022 NT Rural Women’s Award winner, Kylie Jones, offers a free, individualised service for remote children who may be struggling with learning.

Story Ken Eastwood  Photo Stephanie Coombes

Three years ago, Amanda McMillan was at the Borroloola Campdraft with her young boys Toby and Archie. They live on Wollogorang station, in the Roper River district on the border of the NT and Queensland, where they run about 40,000 head. The nearest decent-sized town is about 6 hours’ drive away. 

“We were at the campdraft and I was talking to a mother and saying, ‘Archie’s in prep, and he’s struggling a bit with his sounds and speaking,’ and she said, ‘Have you heard about Miss Kylie?’”

The other mum was referring to Kylie Jones, who has such a passion for helping remote families with learning issues that she won the 2022 NT Rural Women’s Award after setting up a not-for-profit organisation, RAISEducation that offers a free, individualised service. Kylie happened to be at the campdraft. “Kylie came straight over to our camp and she had a chat with our governess and she gave Archie an assessment right there in a camp chair,” Amanda says.

On the spot, Kylie offered them special learning pack materials, and tips and tricks for Amanda and the governess to help Archie progress. Over the next 3 years she offered regular online consultations and came out to visit the family on Wollogorang. “Before Kylie, he was struggling with sounds, reading and writing. In 6 months he was away. He can even read most words now due to her strategies. Her guidance and her confidence and her expertise in teaching are amazing. We’re so blessed.”

Amanda says Kylie’s teacher training and her former experiences as a teacher in Alice Springs and a governess on Helen Springs station, near Alice Springs, and Gogo station in the Kimberley, means she understands the learning process for remote children from different perspectives. “She can just relate.”

“I’ve never been a big city person,” Kylie says, having recently returned from a 9000km NT road trip in which she visited 14 families, connecting with parents, governesses and many of the children she is supporting. She observes what’s happening in the remote classrooms on stations and works out how best to support the governess. “A lot of them are young girls straight out of year 12, so they often don’t have a lot of classroom strategies in place. Ideally, I try to be there 2–3 days so it’s not a rush and you have some time to watch what’s going on.”

Currently, she’s supporting 63 children across 4 states, from preschool up to year 6. With practically no advertising, the exponential growth in the business, from 15 students just 3 years ago, has all been word of mouth. Kylie is adamant that families shouldn’t pay for the service – they just need to provide her with a bed and food. 

“When I started, I funded it from my personal savings and I haven’t had a wage now for 2.5 years,” she says. “Some families have been very generous and have made donations to cover fuel, resources, etc.” She has also had support from organisations such as Decodable Readers Australia, and when not on the road is put up on Mt Riddock station by her friends the Cadzows, but is hoping over the next year to find corporate sponsors in the agricultural sector who could help her expand the program. “We probably need some more people in here working, but without funding that isn’t possible.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #149

Outback Magazine: June/July 2023