• Photo taken by Shonie Murphy of the year 11 and 12's boarding students together (Shonie Murphy)Source: Shonie Murphy
Each year hundreds of kids from remote communities make the brave trek to boarding schools in the cities to complete their studies.
Kearyn Cox

7 May 2022 - 9:53 AM  UPDATED 7 May 2022 - 9:53 AM

Students from the remote community of Wirrimanu or Balgo in the Kimberley region of WA returned to school this week in Perth.

As many as 40 students from remote Kimberley communities attend the boarding program at La Salle College.

Each semester they either drive more than 3000 kilometres, or catch a 3-hour flight stopping over in Broome or Kununurra.

One of the students travelling to Perth from Balgo is Kamish Nowee.

“When I was about to be a year seven student, I was told about the opportunity to fly down to Perth... " he said.

"I chose Perth because the city there is big."

Kamish's tiny community of Wirrimanu, in WA’s far north, is a world away from his studies in the city.

Back on Country, he speaks Pintupi, Kukatja, Yawuru and English, all fluently. He said the hardest part of travelling to Perth is leaving his family and culture behind.

“I go hunting nearly every day with my pop, spending the day out in bush, going out hunting for six hours," he said. 

“It’s a change. You're going to miss your family. You going to stay there for nearly 10 weeks. It's been it's okay, but it's been challenging.

"You're missing the family."

Kamish has been boarding at the college since his first year of high school and is now a semester away from graduating.

“I feel like lucky. I feel like [others] can also achieve it, coming to Perth,” said Kamish.

The acting principal at La Salle College, Roxanna Davies, said the program has been bringing students to Perth for more than 12 years.

“Moving from a small community to a school that is a population of 1400 students, that in itself would be a mind shift," she told NITV News. 

"Let alone a social shift, let alone the emotional shift that comes from moving away from your family to attend a residential boarding facility.

“I think these students have a courage that’s untapped."

Ms Davies said she wants to welcome more kids from remote communities.

“We love opening our doors to students from Balgo and we would definitely like to see more students from Balgo and remote communities come to us.

"I believe that we offer a good educational alternative and we like to think we care for them deeply..."

Justine Yumbi made the trip to Perth from Yawuru country and is currently in year eleven.

She is a proud member of the program, the second from her family to attend La Salle College.

She said she aims to finish her studies next year, and return to her community to teach others.

“I want to be a teacher when I graduate," she said.

“I want to... spread my knowledge to the little kids back at home and teach them.

“I just want other kids to have fun and to know what they are capable of and what they can do."

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