Why Whyalla?

When I first moved to Australia, I had to undertake further study to get recognition for my degree. It seemed an onerous requirement as I was asked to complete just two undergraduate modules. Given my degree was a MA this seemed particularly peculiar. Luckily I could complete them online.

Part of one module required attendance for a two day course in Whyalla. We had to present an assessment model of some kind and demonstrate its use.

By then I was in Mount Gambier, but this was the first excursion I got outside of Adelaide or the Mount. Whyalla is a dusty, red soiled coastal town located on the Eyre Peninsula, or the lands of the Barngala people. In fact Whyalla is a an Aboriginal word mean “place of deep water”.

Iron ore is the main industry, and the huge steel works dominate the town. The red soil was everywhere, staining the buildings. It was a quiet town, despite its size, and seemed endlessly windy.

The course passed without a hitch. Since I received no certification for my work, other than acknowledgement of passing, I did not put much effort in.

I did notice though that the other students had something of a tense relationship with their lecturers. Several students had been failed (including myself) for a piece of work submitted earlier. We’d been allowed to resubmit to get a pass grade, and since that was all I needed I wasn’t heavily invested.

However, there was some issue about the coursework. In truth, I don’t think the guidance had been very clear. We were meant to write on a particular family setting, but all the examples were included on the same sheet with no other instruction and no indication of distinction between each example, other than a new paragraph. People just assumed the whole document was the example. It was a case of the lecturers should have been clearer, and we could have clarified. The lecturers though, took a more belligerent attitude and became quite defensive. It was an interesting display of power dynamic, and very much to the students disadvantage. I felt sorry for them.

It got a little embarrassing though, because clearly something about my general standard of work had caught someone’s eye. So much that during lunch one of the lecturers came out and asked me, in front of the other students, whether I had considered being a tutor. Quite aware of some looks about the room, I said I hadn’t and would speak to them further when I had more time to mull of the matter. Nothing came if it at the end, but at the time I apologised to the other students. They knew my circumstances and clearly I wasn’t feeling the pressure they were. Empathy did not seem to be the lecturers strong suit.

Beyond that I had a quick mooch about the town, but with a flight that evening didn’t have that much time to look around. All I remember is the red, and that deep, deep blue ocean.

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