History of the Isolated Children's Parents' Association in NSW

Background Information
The Isolated Children's Parents' Association (ICPA) is a voluntary parent organisation that has its roots firmly embedded in rural and remote Australia. It was founded in 1971 in Bourke NSW, following closure of the Bourke Hostel that had provided much needed accommodation for children living on remote properties so they could access education.

The New South Wales State Council of the Isolated Children's Parents' Association (ICPA-NSW) was formed less than a year after the Bourke branch was founded. The mission of the newly formed association, then as it is now 39 years later, is access to education.

The Bourke group of parents attracted the attention of politicians and the media in its pursuit of access to education for geographically isolated children. In 1972, at a meeting in Bourke, the definition of an isolated child was agreed upon by ICPA representatives, politicians and public servants. An isolated child is defined as:

" A child who for geographic reasons has no reasonable daily access to an appropriate school."

So many changes have taken place during 39 years of the operation of our State Council. ICPA-NSW State Council has embraced the use of technology not formerly available. Submissions are now presented by email and teleconferences; video links have replaced the days of party lines and the "no after hours" phone service in many areas. This is a far cry from the original handwritten letters that Mrs Pat Edgley, founding member and "Mother of ICPA" posted in 1971.

ICPA has a Federal Council and all States and Territories (except Victoria and the ACT) have their own autonomous State Councils. Members can subscribe to branches that are located in many rural and remote areas of Australia. For those people who have no local branch nearby, there is the facility to become a lone member of the association.

Access to education for geographically isolated students is always difficult and a major cost to families but it can usually be solved and it is for these solutions that ICPA lobbies very strongly.

How Does It Work:
ICPA supports both government and non government providers of education.

ICPA seeks to achieve equity of access to education opportunities for geographically isolated students living in rural and remote areas by way of government funded allowances to compensate for the costs incurred in gaining access to an appropriate educational facility.

The NSW State Council of the Isolated Children's Parents' Association lobbies for members who have children who:

  • Attend a rural pre-school or access early childhood education through a mobile service
  • Attend a small rural school
  • Attend Country Area Programme (CAP) funded activities
  • Study by Distance Education lessons
  • Travel to school by bus or private vehicle (daily, weekly or at the end of term)
  • Board away from home to access primary or secondary school at a boarding school, agricultural highschool, hostel, private board or maintain a second home
  • Attend a Tertiary institution- University/TAFE/ College

How is NSW State Council Made Up?
All financial members are encouraged to nominate for a position on State Council at the ICPA-NSW Annual General Meeting held during our Annual Conference when all positions are declared vacant. NSW State Council is composed of thriteen members.

Positions on Council include:
The President, Vice President (2), Secretary, Assistant Secretary, Treasurer, Lone Member Officer, Publicity Officer, Immediate Past President, Committee (4) Branches set the agenda for our Association.

Branch delegates bring their issues to either a State or Federal conference for debate on the conference floor. If a motion is passed by a simple majority vote, then that issue becomes the policy for the State or Federal Council for that year. It is then the responsibility of State or Federal Councillors to research the area of concern and take the issues to whatever level of government they are directed, usually by letter or by annual deputation to the government ministers, politicians and public servants involved. Sometimes actions can take decades to achieve!

Summary
The Isolated Children's Parents' Association has achieved a lot in the last 39 years by raising awareness of the issues faced by geographically isolated parents in accessing an appropriate education for their children. As educational expectations increase, so does the work of ICPA, as it continues to demand government provides equitable access to the same high standard of education. It is for this reason that the Isolated Children's Parents' Association is just as important now as it was in 1971.