The Country Education Partnership (CEP) has been working in the area of rural and remote education for 40 years.
The Country Education Partnership was first initiated in 1977 as part of the Commonwealth Schools Commission’s Country Area Program. From the beginning CEP has nurtured the development of locally determined, cross-sectoral, clusters and partnerships – which have proved key to enhancing education outcomes for rural students.
While each state and territory developed their own approaches to the development of the Country Areas Program within their own state – many of them elected to have a strong focus on supporting local rural and remote communities by nurturing the development of locally determined, cross sectoral, clusters and partnerships – which provide to be key in enhancing education opportunities and outcomes for their young people.
These ‘Area Committees’ began in Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria with a number of rural education and community organisations coming together, grouped by rural geographic locations, to locate and explore the specific educational needs of each of their communities. These clusters developed learning initiatives that would enhance the provision of education within their communities. These representative and holistic community organisations were then allocated Country Area Program resources to assist them in the development and implementation of their unique initiatives.
In the early days of CEP, there were only a small number of these Area Committees. However, this quickly grew, which ensured that the majority of communities who were located more than 130 kilometres from a capital city and 25 kilometres from a regional centre had the opportunity to be involved.
the Country Areas Program within each state established a state structure to ensure that there was a state advocacy and representation for rural and remote communities – inclusive of all education sectors.
For example, within Victoria, the CEP has been consistently guided by Victorian grass-roots organisations, such as the Country Education Areas Association (CEAA). The CEAA provided valuable reflection and input into the work and strategic direction of the CEP across Victoria. These state-wide groups supported the ongoing development and operation of clusters within rural and remote communities across the state.
This state-wide structure also provided valuable policy input and program initiatives for the education sectors and state government in relation to rural and remote education provision. Some of these initiatives are still in existence today.
In 1994, many states and territories introduced systemic changes to the funding of all education organisations, which resulted in the Commonwealth Country Area Program funds being redistributed to individual, targeted rural and remote schools. These changes saw the disbanding of the local Area Committees, planning and support roles, and the state-wide Advisory Committees.
Within Victoria (and in Queensland) in response to these changes, rural and remote education communities from across the state held extensive consultations that resulted in the establishment of the Country Education Project Inc. This incorporated not-for-profit community organisation was established in 1994 to represent and support improvements for rural and remote education.
Throughout this transition process the CEP worked hard to retain the independence of the organisation and ensure that it represented the needs and desires of rural and remote communities to the state and federal government.
Central to this belief was the view that innovation, advocacy and support of rural and remote education organisations, demanded a neutral, grass-roots approach.
To support its work, the Country Education Project Inc. established service agreements with the three education sectors, along with building partnerships with key organisations including philanthropy, the business sector, local government, tertiary education sector and key stakeholder groups (including cultural, indigenous, and peak education organisations).
Students learning through telematics – the first communication technology system that combined the DUCT system, with fax and phone to link schools.
A CEP board member at Bush Week in Bourke Street, Melbourne – where rural schools took over the Bourke Street Mall for a week.
In 2012, the Country Education Project changed its name to the Country Education Partnership to better reflect the role that it evolved into within the modern rural and remote learning environment. Recently, the CEP has expanded to provide support to rural and remote communities in other states of Australia through the formation of partnerships with key education organisations.
The Country Education Partnership has grown to become one of Australia’s peak organisations focused on rural and remote education, providing an ever broadening range of programs and services across all states and territories of Australia.
Over the last four decades the CEP has maintained a strong commitment to building the capacity of all rural and remote learning providers and their communities. The CEP maintains the cluster approach as a model of best practice in order to support education provision in rural and remote education communities.
It holds on to its key values that were established within the Country Areas Program in 1977 – creative thinking, innovative solutions, whole of community, partnerships and place based decision making.
Interstate and International
Since establishing itself as a not for profit organisation with a remit on rural and remote education (focusing on Victoria), it has found itself partnering with a range of organisations in other states and territories to deliver a range of programs and activities for rural and remote education communities. Such programs as Rural Education Leadership programs, student advocacy programs, Small School Support programs, and professional development programs.
In addition, it has partnered with national organisations to provide programs and activities focused on rural and remote education. The partnership with AITSL and a remote education partnership in outback Australia to support them in developing a comprehensive professional development approach across the partnership is one example.
Internationally, CEP is recognised for its work in supporting the provision of high-quality education in rural and remote communities. This has led to the development of strong links and relationships with individuals and organisations across Canada, New Zealand, UK, Scotland, Scandinavia and the USA. These relationships have enriched the knowledge and skills of the CEP in order to better support learning provision in rural and remote communities.
At a governance level, the CEP is managed by a Committee of Management, with membership comprising representatives from rural and remote education communities, as well as people with expertise and interest in rural and remote education. The committee meets regularly and directs the work of the organisation on behalf of the member education organisations and is led by an invited Chair.
In 2007, the CEP introduced a Life Membership of the organisation to recognise people who have provided significant and sustained support in enhancing learning provision in rural and remote communities. Since then, eight more outstanding individuals have been acknowledged as Life Members of the CEP.
In 2008, the Country Education Partnership was pleased to announce that Mr Baillieu Myer AC was nominated as the organisation’s inaugural Patron. Mr Myer has had a long-standing interest in rural and remote education in Australia and has supported a number of initiatives. As an indication of his commitment to rural and remote education, he established the Baillieu Myer Rural Education Leadership Scholarship in 2009 which recognises people from rural and remote learning communities who have provided outstanding contributions to the provision of rural and remote education.
Image taken at the launch of the Rural Education Framework in 2010.
Image taken at the launch of the Rural Educational Framework in 2010.