Local Schools, Basin Communities: A Site-Study Account of Rural Place(s) and Bioregional Engagement

Year: 2016

Author: Green, Bill, Roberts, Philip, Caffery, Jo, Downes, Natalie, Chapman, Amy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

How do local, often small schools, situated in rural communities, position themselves within larger and more inclusive contexts? This is the question driving and informing this paper, which seeks to understand and appreciate the changing role and significance of rural schools and communities within new political-economic and ecosocial agendas. The specific focus is on two school communities located within the Murray-Darling Basin, a vast bioregional territory stretching across four Australian state jurisdictions. The Basin is acknowledged as an agricultural heartland for Australia, as well as being a repository of major historical, cultural, ecological and Indigenous value (Somerville, 2013). New challenges and dilemmas of socio-educational development and natural resource management arise in the context of climate change, on the one hand, and neoliberal social policy, on the other, and this has had a direct bearing on the Basin and on rural Australia – something clearly echoed elsewhere, in other parts of the world.The paper looks at two rural communities, as indicative examples of the current state of play vis-a-vis education and sustainability, school and community in contemporary rural Australia. It explores the view outward from the schools in focus here, a primary school in one instance, a high school in the other, with regard to their contextualisation in their local towns, their respective networks and educational-administrative jurisdictions, and the Basin itself, as a complex bioregional entity. As well as drawing from observational records, interviews and document analysis, the paper reports on cartographic work (Green & Reid, 2014), mapping the interplay of place, space and scale in the Basin community as object of study, as a dynamic field of local-global interrelations. It emerges from an ongoing study of place-based education and rural-regional sustainability in the Murray-Darling Basin (Roberts et al., 2015). To some extent a reconnaissance study, it seeks to explore the relationship between rural place(s) and bioregional engagement, at a time when education and society alike are increasingly being reframed within a new anthropogenic view of the Lifeworld.ReferencesBill, Green (2015). “Australian Education and Rural-Regional Sustainability”, Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 26–35.Green, Bill & Reid, Jo-Anne (2014). “Social Cartography and Rural Education: Researching Space(s) and Place(s)”, in Simone White & Michael Corbett (Eds.), Doing Educational Research in Rural Settings: Methodological Issues, International Perspectives and Practical Solutions, London & New York: Routledge, pp. 26-40.Roberts, P., Chapman, A., Downes, N., Caffery, J., & Mikhailovich, K. (2015). “Integrating Community Perspectives of Sustainability for Place-Conscious Education”, Policy Studies, forthcoming.Somerville, Margaret (2013). Water in a Dry Land: Place-Learning through Art and Story. London & New York: Routledge.