Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Rueben Hale

News of School of the Air clo­sures has a Pil­bara cat­tle sta­tion fam­ily de­cid­ing their fu­ture.

Onslow pas­toral­ists Kristie and Rory de Pledge have to con­tem­plate if they are go­ing to move closer to Perth so their chil­dren Tom, 1, Mia, 6, Joe, 8 and Dar­cie, 9, can get a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion.

Last week, La­bor an­nounced School of the Air would close in 2019.

Af­ter a life of grow­ing up and liv­ing on Kim­ber­ley and Gas­coyne sta­tions, the cou­ple have de­voted their lives to re­build­ing Ko­or­dar­rie cat­tle sta­tion, which has been home for them and their chil­dren since ini­tially mov­ing into the re­ju­ve­nated home­stead there in 2010.

Dur­ing that time, the de Pledges have built a sta­ble busi­ness ex­port­ing into the bumper over­seas cat­tle mar­ket about 1500 head of cat­tle a year.

They say they are shocked and dis­mayed about the prospect of hav­ing to leave a life they had worked so hard to achieve.

Mrs de Pledge said SOTA could not be re­placed.

“The re­la­tion­ships my chil­dren have de­vel­oped us­ing School of the Air are strong and based upon years of over the air­ways learn­ing and face to face in­ter­ac­tion with the other kids dur­ing camps that all the Schools of the Air go to,” she said. “The trip had a pro­grams sports de­vel­op­ment, Scitech, the zoo, a school sports car­ni­val against each other and tal­ent nights/dis­cos for fun.

“You just can­not take away those re­la­tion­ships and re­place it with a com­pletely dif­fer­ent sys­tem and think that there will not be neg­a­tive con­se­quences for those chil­dren in the fu­ture.”

Mrs de Pledge said the Christmas break, when the fam­ily would nor­mally be re­lax­ing, would in­stead be a wor­ry­ing time.

She said some “tough de­ci­sions” would need to be made.

“Our chil­dren have re­ceived an out­stand­ing ed­u­ca­tion from School of the Air and with­out it, they have few op­tions other than to re­lo­cate closer to the city,” Mrs de Pledge said.

“My el­dest daugh­ter Dar­cie has been ranked aca­dem­i­cally in the top 2.5 per cent in the coun­try and wants to be an au­thor.

“How can we make any other choice other than to put her and the other kids first and leave the sta­tion to make sure they get the op­por­tu­ni­ties they de­serve.”

Pas­toral­ists and Gra­ziers As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Tony Seabrook said the cuts were an at­tack on ru­ral peo­ple.

He said there would be un­fair con­se­quences down the track for the chil­dren re­ly­ing on SOTA.

West Pil­bara pas­toral­ists Kristie and Rory de Pledge with their chil­dren Mia, 6, Joe, 8, Dar­cie, 9, and Tom, 1.

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