By HARRY CLARKE | ADVERTORIAL
PROPER celebrations of Leichhardt House Student Hostel’s 25th anniversary have been on hold for some time, but in 2022 there will never have been more reason to celebrate the renowned student accommodation facility’s rich history.
For more than a quarter of a century, Leichhardt House has served as a convenient, ‘home away from home’ for high school students from throughout the Western Downs region of South East Queensland.
For eligible students (according to Centrelink criteria) the hostel provides Monday-Friday boarding at no cost, allowing those living the region’s more remote areas a place to stay during the schooling week.
Managers China and Shaun Hall and the hostel’s governing body, Chinchilla Student Accommodation Association Inc., are embracing how, despite significant changes across the social demographics and regional profiles of traditional ‘feeder schools’ and communities, the original educational objectives to remain intact.
In 1994, Leichhardt House Student Hostel was established by a driven group of like-minded parents seeking a mainstream school experience for their children who were, due to distance and isolation, largely limited to home-schooling scenarios.
“As has happened over the past 25 years, the Monday to Friday boarding structure at the hostel allows students to undertake their studies and partake in sporting and other social and arts programs during the week,” China Hall said.
“It’s also allowing them to help out at home on the weekends, which proves especially valuable to families during peak times such as harvesting and mustering seasons,” China said.
“Weekly boarding also provides the opportunity for camp drafting and rodeo families to train and compete throughout their seasons.
“Children of farmers and property managers and staff still make up a significant percentage of the boarders we look after, we continue to operate along the same principles as the original hostel guidelines but have had to adjust our model of boarding operations to meet both social and legislative changes.
“For example, the whereabouts of our boarders is paramount. We employee QR code systems for signing in and out and our facility is fully alarmed, camera monitored and security patrolled.”
Shaun and China’s own three children are now adults, but between Monday and Friday of each school term, the couple plays a unique kind of parenting role for up to 32 Year 7-12 students boarding in Chinchilla.
The Halls began managing Leichhardt House in 2010 after having extensive and varied careers in residential education and residential care since 1989.
Between them, the couple has three university degrees and worked for three state governments in education, family services and youth justice departments.
There’s a healthy routine for teenagers at the Hostel with systems and structures in place to ensure a safe and secure environment for all.
In the morning it’s having breakfast, getting ready for school, packing lunches, and making the short walk for the school day at Chinchilla State High School or the bus to Chinchilla Christian College.
Upon returning home from school, the boarders enjoy a hearty afternoon tea before having free time to socialise with friends, attend sports or music practice, enjoy the hostels variety of recreational facilities, or any necessary appointments.
Mobile phones are put aside for daily homework time in the hostel’s fully equipped study areas, with formal study sessions are facilitated by teachers from local schools.
As the Leichhardt House community looks forward to holding its 25 year celebration in 2022, another sentimental milestone has been reached at the hostel.
For the first time next year, a second generation hostel student will be moving in, as Chinchilla local and Leichhardt House alumni Jodi Ellem sends her youngest daughter to the hostel where she lived during school, 25 years ago.
“Leichhardt House has been such an integral part of education in Chinchilla, and we want this to continue for another 25 years and more,” China Hall said.
“It can be a lot of fun. The kids are living with their friends, but they’re also learning to get along with people who they otherwise might not have even talked to.
“And that’s what ends up happening – some of the kids don’t have much to do with each other at school but when they come back here at the end of the day, they’re all playing sport, studying and having dinner together.”
“We really do have a lovely bunch of kids here at the moment and very supportive parents who we always keep open lines of communication with”.
“We’re also really proud about how they benefit as students and grow as young people. It’s great to see the kids go on after school to enjoy traineeships and apprenticeships in the area and to study universities in the city.”
By 2023, students will enjoy direct access to an exciting new Trade Training Centre, which is being built on Leichhardt St over the road from the hostel on land owned by Chinchilla State High School.
“We are expecting a lot of interest in places for Trade Centre trainees at the Hostel and until we understand fully the dynamics and the demographic of exactly who will be attending the centre, and make appropriate changes and upgrades to the Hostel infrastructure, we are expecting the demand for places to exceed our availability,” China said.