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Second blow for Broken Hill students as “Bush Hostel” closes

Broken Hill’s Allison House announces its closure at the end of the school term

They’re only part way through term one, but for some Broken Hill students it’s been a disruptive start to the new school year, with a cloud of uncertainty now hanging over their future education.

First, 600 Willyama High School students were displaced from their regular Broken Hill campus due to a mould infestation which could result in the demolition of the school.

And then on February 27, Allison House, Broken Hill’s “bush hostel” which houses students from isolated properties, announced it’s impending closure at the end of Term one.

Lynn Pritchard, a spokesperson for the student accommodation facility which is due to celebrate 60 years of service this July, said the closure was purely a financial decision around student numbers this year and the predicted numbers going forward. There are currently only six students utilising the facility.

“We have struggled over the years to keep student numbers at an appropriate level to remain
financially viable,” she said.

Allison House is a self-funded, not-for-profit organisation, governed by a committee of volunteers, with paid employees providing 24/7 supervision and assistance including cleaning, food preparation, laundry and transport to school, part-time work and extra curricular activities.

Rebecca Young lives 300 kilometres north of Broken Hill at Milparinka, and her 15-year-old son Max is in his third year at Allison House.
She said the disruption of being placed at Morgan Street Primary School due to the temporary closure of Willyama High School, and now the news of the hostel’s closure, has created an anxious time for her and her son.

“This term Max has started an engineering course at TAFE which he attends once a week through the school and is absolutely loving. He won’t have this opportunity if he has to come home and do distance ed again,” she said.

After trying Dubbo Distance Education in the past, Rebecca said main stream school was essential for Max’s education. “He needs to be in a face to face learning environment, and to have contact with other students. He has a good relationship with the house parents at the hostel. He feels safe there and I know he is well looked after.”

Max’s older sister was also among the 500 ‘bush kids’ over the years, to call Allison House “home away from home”.

Lynn Pritchard said there had been a number of factors leading to the decline in borders, from the Covid pandemic, to more reliable internet connection in isolated areas, families buying second properties in Broken Hill, to “generational families leaving the land as large pastoral companies and national parks purchase grazing properties”.

She said finding “alternative funding would be great but would need to be sustainable. The support required by the House is for more students to use the facility.”

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