BOOK CLUB: Outback Teacher

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Outback Teacher is a historical insight into teaching and life on a mission during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s in remote Western Australia.

It is a true story of Sally Gare’s teaching experiences, co written by Freda Marnie, a former student of Sally’s.

Sally finishes teacher’s college and accepts a teaching position at Forest River Mission School, also
known as Oombulgurri, run by the Church of England. The mission is 3200kms from Perth near the
WA and NT border.

It is a two teacher school with 45 Aboriginal children ranging in age from 5 to 13 years old.
Her anecdotes are told with warmth, humour and are informative.

the outback teacher

She tells how she has dealt with the challenges of remoteness, the weather, crocodiles and snakes.
The initiative needed to teach students with little English language and how to keep the Aboriginal
children engaged – all with limited resources.

On the other side, the challenges of working and getting along with the other white staff at the
mission, some were very interesting characters!

Sally was resourceful and understood the importance of making lessons relevant to Aboriginal
culture, often teaching outdoors. She embraced the lessons the Aboriginal Community taught her. She went on walkabouts and was invited to ceremonies.

Sally’s next teaching post was Port Hedland. There was no class room available, so a disused
locomotive shed was the space given to her. She was to run a staging school, where indigenous
young people would learn English before being integrated into the main local school.

Sally wrote letters home to her mother every week. Her mother had kept every letter and her parents
were very supportive. From the letters Sally is now able to share her experiences accurately.

She now realises that at 20 she was young and naïve, with no knowledge of Government policies and community issues. At the time Sally was unaware that the children had been removed from their families by Government agencies and Church Missions. Later these children became known as “The Stolen

Through Sally’s respectful approach to her students, creativity, resourcefulness, passion for teaching
and helping others, she was able to bring about change to many lives.

Sally Gare has been an educator since 1956. She has been a school principal. She is still involved in
education as part of the Alternative to Violence Project in Western Australia and the Northern

Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read this story about Sally,
a resilient and exceptional woman.

ISBN: 9781761065347
Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Outback Teacher by Sally Gare with Freda Marnie. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

8 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Outback Teacher

  1. An engaging and true story! Sally Gare gives a true insite into her years as a teacher in remote outlook Western Australia. Forrest Mission River school is the start of her love of teaching as soon as she left Teachers College. Her adaptation of struggles with climate, other staff in the remote area and also learning to understand the Aboriginal culture. She writes her story with immense respect and dedication to teaching Aboriginal children and adults. Sally has during this time embraced the life of the remote Aboriginal communities and became part of them. She has immersed herself in all aspects of the life and in term has earnt the respect of those around her in each place she taught. She wasn’t afraid to dig her heels in and help where needed.
    This is a lovely and warm hearted story well written by Freda Marnie who was once a student of Sally’s.
    It is a story to help understand the problems occurring during the 1950’s and 1960’s within aboriginal communities and with the segregation which occurred. It has also opened my eyes to many things I didn’t know. This story is an education in itself.

  2. Thankyou Beautyandlace and Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to review ‘Outback Teacher’ by Sally Gare with Freda Marnie.
    For me there is only one word that describes this book and that is ‘lovely’!
    It is so inspiring, the story of Sally Gare as a 20 year old who has just qualified as a teacher in the 1950’s. Her posting to a remote area in Western Australia where she is to teach Aboriginal children and often in challenging circumstances.
    Many have limited English but her teaching methods were wonderful, incorporating nature and familiar items with her children. She made learning and adventure and had no difficulty in attracting pupils.
    She set out to include the traditional with the new ways.
    The children were eager to learn and she believed that corporal punishment was wrong and just did not work!
    Her quaker parents were supportive and believed in what she was doing, providing much help.

    This was such an excellent read about a truly dedicated teacher who was loved and respected by both her pupils and their parents.

  3. Outback Teacher is the story of Sally’s teaching career in the late 1950’s-early 1960’s in remote Kimberley towns and missions teaching Aboriginal children. But it is so much more than that. Sally shares with us her life within Aboriginal Missions, in Perth and Port Headland, and shared a glimpse of what life was like for not just a young white female, but also the Aboriginal people of the time, where discrimination was the norm and Aboriginal people were not considered citizens.

    Sally was a creative and innovative teacher who I have no doubt has encouraged and inspired generations of students. I thoroughly enjoyed this truly inspiring true story and found myself reading long into the night as I wanted to read ‘just one more chapter’.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  4. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to review outback teacher.
    It was a fantastic book based on Sally’s own experiences of teaching kids in remote communities during the 1950’s and 60s.
    She speaks of the challenges that Aboriginal people faced back then, how they were treated as second class citizens and looked down upon. It was a time when discrimination was everywhere and Sally wrote about what it was like for her as a young while lady.
    I loved how she talked of her teaching and missions and feel like I learned a lot more about Australia and our history.
    Thank you again.

  5. Outback Teacher is the story of a young newly graduated teacher who moves to remote WA to teach children on a mission under difficult circumstances. Sally Gare shares the moments that impacted her in her pursuit of teaching a mixed aged group of children, developing her own style of teaching while meeting the children’s needs.
    She regails stories of those who she learnt from while utilising her faith and beliefs in God to guide how she interacts with others. The honesty and openness shone through and it was a pleasure to read.

    Thankyou Beauty and Lace and Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to review Outback Teacher by Sally Gare.

  6. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to review ‘The Outback Teacher’ a memoir by Sally Gare.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this memoir. It’s an inspiring story not just for the reader, but I think for anyone who wants teaching as a vocation. Outback Teacher illustrates that with some creativity and resourcefulness, Teachers can rise to the challenge in what would seem very stressful times in 1950’s Australia with barely any resources. Set during the Stolen Generation, to be a white Teacher on a remote two teacher school in western Australia witnessing the blatant discrimination and treatment of Aboriginal people. It was a heartwarming read and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Sally’s perspective of the inequality, challenges and complex time in history.

  7. Just a truly amazing journey of real life as an outback teacher, I did not want to finish this book as it was a bit emotional towards the end (especially the baby boy now grown up) I was really moved by this moment.
    Sally Gare was the most un-judgemental, caring and beautiful soul that cared so much for teaching and did it in a fun way. She had a heart so big and so forgiving that it did not deter her from what she believed in was right and what other people thought of her through judgement which was often at times revoked by Sally proving through the kids that it worked.
    A great insight of the aboriginal people and a better understanding of why they were against things and how they were trying to protect their cultural ways and beliefs.
    Sally was one tough, resilient woman who despite the bare necessities, fought hard in knowing she loved teaching the kids without taking their culture away from them.
    Loved all of this book and felt privileged to read her adventures from beginning to the end.
    A must read for all!

  8. What a lovely book! This true story gives us an insight into the Aboriginal culture, and how hard it was for those amazing people who go outback to help them.
    As a West Australian, I know how beautiful the landscape is up in the north west.
    The author tells the story of the young teacher, hardships of living out there that we wouldn’t even think about, and so much about the Aboriginal culture in such a funny and warm way.
    A fabulous read!

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