Outstanding Achiever

The Connellan Airways Trust established the Outback Achiever Award in 2006 to recognise an individual or organisation who/which has provided outstanding service in a rural or outback environment.

Michael Stock AM Michael Stock AM, shown left with wife Colleen, epitomises the objectives of the Connellan Airways Trust and received its Outstanding Achiever Award in 2006.

Michael Stock was born in Chelmsford, England, in 1934 to an Australian mother and a British father. He migrated to Australia with his parents in 1951 and, after a few short-term jobs, attended Melbourne Teachers’ College in Victoria and completed his basic teacher training. After graduating he taught in various state schools in Melbourne and country Victoria before joining Ballarat College and later Geelong College. Finally he joined the NSW TAFE sector in 1974 and retired as Head of School from the ACT TAFE in 1989.

He was seconded to the Northern Territory TAFE for a time and, while working there, used retired master tradesmen to upgrade apprentice literacy and numeracy standards. This innovative work led him to appreciate the opportunity of using the untapped resource of retired teachers and other professionals to assist families whose children were studying through Schools of the Air, where the burden fell largely on the mothers who were untrained in educational matters. Mike’s achievement was in linking the resource (retired, active and interested professionals) to the need (remote families with children enrolled at Schools of the Air) and establishing Volunteers for Isolated Students’ Education (VISE).

After retiring from TAFE in 1989 Mike set about establishing his scheme and after much discussion and planning was able to place 50 tutors, mostly from the Australian Capital Territory, to the Northern Territory to pilot his idea. News of the scheme spread rapidly throughout rural Australia and Mike received numerous requests for assistance from all over the country. In 1992 he arranged more than 200 placements in remote parts of New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory. The scheme was established, but it became increasingly obvious that the organisational aspect was too much for one person so a decision was made to establish local coordinators to be supported by local area committees with Mike as the national coordinator. In this role he processed applications from prospective tutors and sent them out to local coordinators for placement. Local area committees became self-funded and property owners contributed towards volunteers’ travel and board.

By 2000 the scheme produced an annual average of 250 volunteers to assist approximately 400 families from remote areas of Australia.

Having established a national organisation for VISE, Mike turned his attention to another area of need where families in remote areas required assistance in times of family crisis. This new group became known as VISE Angels. Some of these Angels have been out with families and on the road for up to 12 months. The work broadened further to assist families of itinerant showpeople who were constantly on the move. Mike found retirees who were happy to travel with the showpeople and teach their children while the parents worked.

The latest aspect of VISE has been the development of a partnership with the University of Ballarat, under which retired and interested computer literate people are recruited and trained at the University of Ballarat to enable them to go into isolated country areas and assist families to access and use the internet. During the fi rst three years of the program as many as 100 trainers assisted more than 1200 families.

In 1994 Mike was recognised by the Advance Australia Foundation for ‘Outstanding Contribution in the Field of Rural Education’.

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