“It can be a bit like working in a resort, but with frilled neck lizards. And children.”
Suzanne Temple is aware that few Primary School Principals would describe their work this way. “It’s certainly unique. We pick our own mangos and use them for smoothies in the canteen. I finish work and go for a walk on the beach. I don’t think there’s another school quite like it.”
Suzanne is the Principal of Cable Beach Primary School, one of Broome’s four public primary schools. It’s just before noon and she is preparing to head to the library, where the school is running a book fair during the lunch break. With over 78 staff to manage and 432 children from kindergarten to year 6, her days are very full. “I’m usually here at 6.30a.m. and I don’t leave until 4.30 in the afternoon. And as any teacher will tell you, there’s still never enough time to get everything done to the level we’d like!”
Suzanne brings nearly 40 years’ experience to her role, having worked across WA and in the UK at all levels of education. “I’ve been at this school for eight years now. I’ve always loved working in schools in smaller communities because it makes the school a real hub for people. We’re constantly building really good relationships over years and years – and that’s really important for the kids.” Part of her current work is with the Broome Schools Cluster, which brings together the four primary schools as well as the local high school. “Essentially what we’re doing is creating a seamless journey from kindy through to year 12 so there’s consistency and support for the kids all the way through.”
She laughs when asked about her favourite part of the job.
“It’s so hard to decide! I really value the culture here. Our school is 70% indigenous and among the other kids there are over 20 different nationalities. Every student here learns Yawuru language and culture. It’s a really rich experience. I love the families as well. My job is great because I get to work with the teachers, EAs, parents and community members to do the best we can together. We achieve so much more than just what a ‘school’ does. There’s a real sense of community.”
Unsurprisingly, Suzanne sees huge potential for education in the future of Broome.
“I think the things that make the town unique – the history and culture – could be tied in with existing industries like tourism. That’s especially true with regard to the indigenous culture here. There’s so much we can do from an education standpoint about promoting and celebrating the place and the community, and I think visitors will get a lot out of that.”
She thinks for a moment. “I don’t think we should rely just on those seasonal industries, either. The local people are a market that’s largely untapped and we should definitely value them more with year-round business and the employment that would bring. If we’re talking about an ideal future, I’d love to see the kids in my school growing up to get jobs here in Broome,” she says. “With the right guidance, there’s no reason that can’t happen.”