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Punmu children ride to school in a barrel train

In the remote Pilbara region a train snakes its way through the red dirt and spinifex, but the cargo is not what you would expect. (This blog post is an extract from an article published by ABC North West WA on 28 Jun 2017.)

The Aboriginal community of Punmu, 700 kilometres east of Newman, has converted more than 20 metal drums into train carriages, providing a novelty way of encouraging kids to attend school. About 40 students go to the local school, which has classes from pre-kindergarten to Year 12. Punmu co-ordinator John Reudavey said the idea came to him while on holiday in Perth. "I saw four drums being towed behind a ride-on mower and the parents were paying $2 for the kids to putt around the footy oval, and I just thought 'What an awesome idea'," he said.

"Obviously we had to make it more robust because of where we are and the conditions we live in."

Mr Reudavey said the whole community had jumped on board the idea.

Challenge of getting kids to school on time

School principal Sarah Mortimer said the train greatly assisted some parents in the community.

"It's something positive, it's something safe and it makes it much easier for families that have younger children at home," she said.

While the school attendance rate was already good, Ms Mortimer hoped the train would encourage the children to arrive on time.

"One of the challenges is getting the kids to school early and getting them to stay all day," she said.

"You can say a child has 100 per cent attendance because they're coming every day to school, but if they come at 10 o'clock that's different to coming at 8 o'clock."

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