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Australia Popular WA camp under fire for asking kids to get changed in the open

00:25  06 november  2019
00:25  06 november  2019 Source:   watoday.com.au

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School kids from several WA high schools were allegedly asked to remove their shirts and get changed out in the open at an award-winning camp south of Perth, a horrified parent claims. The mother of a 15-year-old girl said the incident took place during a Curtin University-run retreat at Forest

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The mother said her daughter had been left upset by the incident on camp.© Jessica Shapiro The mother said her daughter had been left upset by the incident on camp.

School kids from several WA high schools were allegedly asked to remove their shirts and get changed out in the open at an award-winning camp south of Perth, a horrified parent claims.

The mother of a 15-year-old girl said the incident took place during a Curtin University-run retreat at Forest Edge Recreation Camp near Waroona Dam, 120 kilometres south of Perth. She did not want to be named to protect her daughter's identity.

The group of students, aged 13 to 15, had been swimming in a river as part of the camp's incentive course before the mother said camp staff suggested they remove their wet shirts, despite a lack of change rooms.

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The mother said her daughter was distressed by the incident.

Described on the camp's website as a "really fun bush adventure walk" with high chances of "getting wet and muddy", the course is designed to teach basic map-reading skills and navigation.

Curtin University, Department of Education senior staff and a school principal have admitted the request was "inappropriate".

Correspondence between Pemberton District High School principal Lee Illingworth and Forest Edge shows Ms Illingworth alleging she did not receive specific details of the plan to have children change in the open prior to the camp.

"Had this been provided to me... I assure you that as the principal I would challenge the appropriateness of such process," she wrote.

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Goldfields WA Camping Group. has 423 members. We ask that, for the time being, those wishing to cross the border please delay their travel plans as there are limited facilities These are in place due to multiple fires in the area. Western Australia Police Force have already had numerous requests for

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"If you are going to maintain the position that principals need to sign off on the appropriateness of the procedures built in to your activities, I suggest that you need to provide principals with details of these procedures in advance."

Lawyers Kott Gunning, on behalf of Forest Edge, clarified the extent of what occurred.

"At the end of one part of the activity the children are wet and given the option of changing their shirts," a statement said.

"They were not asked or told to 'strip off their clothes'.

"They were not told or instructed to undress in front of peers and staff.

"The children who wanted to change clothes were directed to separate areas one for boys, one for girls. The two areas were screened by thick bush and located so that neither group could see the other. The decision to get changed was left to the individual child."

The lawyers said Forest Edge and staff had acted appropriately at all times and as a result of the complaint had erected colourbond screens at the relevant location to provide reassurance to students and their parents so they are effectively screened.

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"It's just this big secret," the mother of the student said.

"My daughter is not okay. She's more affected by the fact that she thought she was doing the right thing by saying something bad happened and she's realised now that it's best to just keep it to yourself and not say."

A Curtin spokeswoman said it was the first time they had arranged a camp at Forest Edge and would ensure adequate changing facilities were provided in the future.

"The university is aware of the parent’s concerns, spoke with the parent shortly after the event, and would be willing to do so again," she said.

"Curtin has conducted a preliminary review and considers it inappropriate for school students to get changed in the open."

Education Department south west regional executive director Neill Milligan said the Department of Education had been speaking to the family and considered the management of the situation at the camp inappropriate.

"A parent raised a complaint about students changing out of wet clothes outside after an activity, and we have been speaking with the family about the matter," he said.

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"I’ve also been advised that Curtin University is reviewing the camp arrangements, including privacy issues.

"I appreciate the family’s concerns about the management of the situation at the camp, as in my view it was not appropriate."

Eight weeks after the incident, the mother is pleading with the Department of Education to increase the oversight of private camps that public school students attend.

"I'd like that they make it impossible for something like this to happen again," she said.

"If the law needs to change change the law, if regulation needs to be rewritten rewrite it, if a regulatory body needs to be created to oversee this camps do it.

"And most of all, train every teacher in the system that kids in their pants and their bras is not normal at school."

A letter from Education Minister Sue Ellery to local member Terry Redman said the Curtin AHEAD leader was of the view that no student was instructed to change in the open. However, she and Curtin considered it inappropriate for school students to get changed in the open, irrespective of whether it was optional or not.

"I thought if you did the right thing and you followed the right procedures and you let the system work the kids would be safe," the mother of the student said.

"Now, I've realised as a mum our kids aren't safe at school and it's definitely not safe on camp, and when you tell someone that they just don't act on it, they don't want to act on it."

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