Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (12:44): Sounds like we all should be there, member for Mount Gambier. I rise today to support the motion that has come to this house:
That this house—
(a) celebrates World Teachers’ Day held annually on 5 October; and
(b) acknowledges the vital and inspirational role that teachers play in providing quality education in a range of settings and to a diverse range of community members.
Those members who have contributed today have talked about the diversity in schools within their electorates. The member for Giles talked about the vast landscape that schools fit into across his electorate and others have as well. I think I tallied up 22 schools in the electorate of Flinders, more than most but not as many as some. Most are area schools. There is just one high school in Port Lincoln, and it is the largest school in our area, and there are two or three primary schools as well. There is also Lake Wangary and Penong, extending all the way out to Yalata, so an incredibly diverse range of demands but also of students.
I think it is important to acknowledge the importance of teachers as role models. They understand, I am sure, and we need to acknowledge the incredible influence they have not just on the fundamentals of language, science and thought, but the role they play in moulding the adults of tomorrow. It is an extraordinary responsibility. It is not one I would relish. We have in this place some former teachers and it is interesting to hear their insights on the teaching profession and the challenges that that puts up.
I believe that a solid education is a wonderful foundation for life. We all remember our own time at school. Many of us now are parents of school children or have been parents of school children so we are all exposed to the education system in some way or another right through life. Our parents saw us off to school, we saw our children off to school, and sometimes if we are fortunate, we get to see our grandchildren off to school.
Education has changed, the world has changed, but fundamentally it is about teaching children and preparing them for the life ahead. I started school way back in the 1960s. Cummins Area School was a brand-new school in those days. I was in the first lot of grade 1 to begin at the new school. It was the 1960s and it was the height of the baby boomers coming through. Not that I am necessarily in that category, but certainly there was a need for bigger schools all over the state, and Cummins Area School had constructed a new building, which I think for a time housed well over 600 students, much beyond what it is today.
My first teacher was Mrs Parker. She seemed incredibly old. She would have been in her 40s, I am sure. I remember much detail about my time at Cummins. One day in particular was the day the men landed on the moon in 1969, and of course our school had no televisions in those days. That is the only reason that I can think why all of us bus kids were sent home with town kids to watch the moon landing, and I went along with a friend of mine to the only two-storey house in town. The reception was not great and it was often a bit fuzzy in our part of the world, so we finished up outside having a few dobs.
I went on and completed my schooling in Cummins as a grade 7 under Mrs Trigg and, as often happens in a small country town, she happened to be my great aunty. I rolled up at school on the first day not knowing whether to call her Aunty Mary or Mrs Trigg, and she made it quite clear that I should call her Mrs Trigg. Now she was old being my great aunty but she taught an entire generation of year 7s in the Cummins district and many of us will remember that. As a year 8, my parents packed me off to boarding school and I finished up here in Adelaide at Prince Alfred College. I can honestly say, and I shared this with my mother the other day, I enjoyed every single moment of it, and she was pleased to hear that. I appreciated the opportunity that my parents gave me and that that school gave me also.
That leads me to a really important part of this speech. I want to take the time to talk about one particular teacher, and I am going to thank The Advertiser newspaper because I am going to borrow heavily from their obituary of a few weeks ago. One of the teachers at PAC during that time was an older gentleman, to my mind, and I finished up in his year 12, modern European history class. His name was Cecil David Mattingley, commonly known as David or ‘Dink’, and I would just like to talk a little bit about him. He died recently, on 2 June 2017, here in Adelaide, just a few days short of his 95th birthday. I knew him as a schoolteacher, but there was much at that time we did not know about David that has since come to light through reading about him.
His heroism in World War II earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross on the spot, but for generations of schoolboys in Adelaide it was his soft-spoken command of the English language, history and literature that was most important. Dink was a tall gentleman of impeccable manners, who would only occasionally rise to the taunts of the schoolboys at Prince Alfred College. In the classroom and on the Torrens—where he quietly resuscitated PAC’s rowing prowess, because it was in the doldrums for a while—he would politely shut down any questions about his wartime experiences.
He was born in Launceston, Tasmania, but was eager to learn to fly, and he enlisted in the RAAF in 1941. After completing his early training in Australia, he went to England to pilot heavy aircraft. In late 1943, David was posted to the new RAF 625 Squadron in Kelstern, Lincolnshire. They flew the four-engine Avro Lancaster bombers, mostly on night raids over Germany. The odds of survival were poor. Nearly half of Bomber Command’s total air crew were killed. Less than half survived a full tour of duty.
David flew his 23rd operation on 29 November 1944. He piloted his Lancaster D-Dog and crew of seven on a daytime raid to Dortmund as part of a force of 300 aircraft. After their bombing run, they turned back for England and ran into very heavy flak. Six of the 294 Lancasters in the raid were shot down. David’s plane was hit hard by flak. It blew out all the perspex windows of the cockpit, blew up some of the instruments and holed a fuel tank. He was briefly knocked out. He had been hit in the head by shrapnel, which penetrated his helmet and fractured his skull. Another piece severed his tendons on his right hand. When he came to, he continued to pilot the plane. More flak caught them, and he was wounded in the right knee.
Later, he was hit in the right shoulder, so he could not use his right arm at all. His flight engineer, Cyril Bailey, was also wounded. After flying three hours back to England, David put out the call for a priority landing, fire engines and an ambulance, not mentioning that the ambulance was for him. He devised a plan to land, with Cyril Bailey helping to operate the throttles. They made a perfect landing. David received an immediate award of the DFC, while Cyril won the DFM. David’s wounds brought an end to his flying career. He would be in and out of hospital for years, scarred both physically and emotionally.
After the war, David earned an honours degree in history, worked as an archivist and wrote a book on Matthew Flinders and George Bass—a small world. He taught at Geelong Grammar and Marlborough College in the UK before coming to teach at PAC for 32 years. In 2016, David was made a Chevalier of France’s Legion of Honour.
I would have ordinarily given that obituary in a grievance debate, but I felt this was an opportunity, given that we are discussing teachers, to talk about a gentleman whom I knew and admired at school but knew very little of. That is to take nothing away, of course, from all the other teachers who taught me. Every other member of this house, particularly the member for Giles, from what I heard of his contribution, remembers their schooldays with fondness I am sure. In acknowledging all the teachers, I wish the year 12s all the best in their upcoming exams only a few weeks away.
The last thing I need to talk about is the need for equity in education, particularly across regional areas. Government has a responsibility to provide adequate and supportive education to students right across this vast state, and I believe a big part of that these days is providing not just teachers and teacher support but also adequate internet access for those schools that need to use open access to provide senior education to country students.