‘Teaching everything’ for Bungaree’s outgoing deputy

Jake DietschSound Telegraph
Retired associate principal Jann Westbrook with Troy Johannesson and Kavindi Perera.
Camera IconRetired associate principal Jann Westbrook with Troy Johannesson and Kavindi Perera. Credit: Jake Dietsch/Sound Telegraph/Jake Dietsch

After nearly half a century inspiring kids, associate principal at Bungaree Primary School Jann Westbrook has retired.

Ms Westbrook called time 12 years to the day after she started at the school, which she said was always going to be her last.

After growing up in Bunbury, her first placement was in 1972 at the age of 16 at Bunbury Nursery School.

Ms Westbrook initially had no interest in school or becoming an educator, but was inspired by one of her teachers and went back for further study.

She went on to spend 14 years in the Pilbara working with the Martu people, which she described as the “highlight of my career”.

“They hadn’t gone to school. But they came in from the desert and they started to come into the township,” Ms Westbrook said.

“One of my main roles was to encourage these Martu kids to come to school.

“I've always been a stayer at my schools, because it’s vital to make the connections. Especially when you’re dealing with Indigenous families, it takes time for you to pass the test.”

In South Newman, Ms Westbrook joined an Emergency Support Network funded by BHP and had the role of dealing with children.

“Either regarding the direct death of a child or of family and workers, I was the person called if there were any children involved,” she said.

“And usually if it’s an adult, nine times out of 10 there will be a child associated with that.

“It was very rewarding, but heart-breaking. When there’s a loss of a child in any situation it is difficult. But then managing that at a school level and then past that at the family level. I learnt a lot from that experience.

“It was tough. I dealt with plane crashes and in Karijini people got swept away. Plus sick little people that die, because you’re dealing with the whole of community, when you work in a small town.”

Jann Westbrook is calling time on her career in education, which started in 1972.
Camera IconJann Westbrook is calling time on her career in education, which started in 1972.

In 2009, Ms Westbrook was looking to move on to the Kimberley, but when word got out that she was leaving the Pilbara, she was poached by Bungaree Primary in Rockingham and took on the role of Associate Principal.

The school has a large contingent of Indigenous students and she said she was impressed at how well the school community worked together and the level of attendance by the pupils.

“I’ve never worked in a leafy green school,” she said.

“Because of the things that we encounter in our community, I think that Bungaree is the perfect training ground for new teachers.”

Ms Westbrook said she was proud of the community and staff at Bungaree. While she will miss it, she said she was glad to have been a part of its educational growth.

She said she doesn’t know what she’ll do in retirement as “teaching has been everything for me”.

But she said she would definitely stay in Rockingham and plans to volunteer at the school.

Her message to teachers was to “realise their power”.

“Teachers have so much power and they need to harness that power to encourage children to believe in what they can do,” she said.

Principal Sharon Albers-Smith said if kids were stressed out, Ms Westbrook was always there “to listen and give kids the time.”

“Her accomplishment throughout her time here is the connections with the community and broader community,” Ms Albers-Smith said.

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