Fundraiser launched for Halls Creek truancy whistleblower as drop in Kimberley school attendance revealed

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Brock Burston was found not guilty of disclosing official secrets.
Camera IconBrock Burston was found not guilty of disclosing official secrets. Credit: Stephanie Sinclair/The Kimberley Echo

A Halls Creek school teacher who was charged and later cleared over revealing abysmal attendance numbers has launched a Go Fund Me page for his defence as new figures reveal a major drop in Kimberley school attendance over the past two years.

On February 22, Brock Burston launched his Go Fund Me page ahead of a Public Service Appeal Board hearing on March 3 that will determine whether Education Department sanctions imposed on him will remain in place.

It is the latest in the years-long battle that has seen Mr Burston pursued by the Department of Education for revealing truancy numbers in an anonymous letter to the Shire of Halls Creek in late 2020.

It comes as new figures disclosed in Parliament on January 14 revealed a drastic drop in the average school attendance across all years of education throughout the Kimberley over the past two years.

The figures were given in answer to a question posed by Mining and Pastoral MLC Neil Thomson with Finance Minster Sue Ellery providing the attendance numbers for Halls Creek, Fitzroy Valley, Wyndham and Derby District high schools alongside East Kimberley College.

The worst of the figures were for Derby District High School which saw a 40 per cent drop in Year 12 attendance from 70.2 per cent in semester one of 2021 to 30.3 per cent in the first semester of 2022.

Halls Creek District High School also saw a fall of nearly 20 per cent in Year 12 attendance from 30 per cent to just 11.9 per cent.

East Kimberley College saw no improvement with attendance dropping across all year groups while Fitzroy Valley District High School recorded the most improvement with its Year 7 to 11 students all increasing attendance.

Wyndham and Halls Creek district high schools saw some minor improvement in their kindergarten, pre-primary, Year 3, 5 and 11 attendance while all other age groups dropped.

But the release of the woeful attendance numbers has not eased the Department of Education’s fervour in pursuing Mr Burston.

Mr Burston’s Go Fund Me page details the long struggle with the Education Department, from being criminally charged to watching former Education Minister Sue Ellery forced to apologise in Parliament for her part in the debacle in which truancy numbers were fudged.

In May last year, Department of Education director general Lisa Rodgers punished Mr Burston, calling for his family to transfer out of the Kimberley and be relocated to an unspecified location for an unspecified amount of time in a supernumerary position which he now plans to fight.

Describing himself as an advocate for disadvantaged children, Mr Burston said he had been treated like a criminal.

“For the past 20 months, my family and I have been publicly defamed, persecuted, harassed and bullied by the Department of Education,” he said.

“To this day, the Department of Education is relentlessly penalising me.”

Since mid-2021, Mr Burston has been stood down on full pay.

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