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Drought stricken town forced to close student hostel -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The drought and dwindling numbers of contract work available in the region will see the closure of a Longreach institution at the end of the year.

Since the mid 1960s the Longreach Hostel has been home to many students from smaller surrounding towns.

But so many people have moved on and now there simply aren't enough students to keep the hostel running. Lindy Kerin reports.


LINDY KERIN: Fuelling up before school.

DEAN MITCHELL: I've got a cooked breakfast today…

LINDY KERIN: The students here come from smaller towns in the region and go to the primary and high school in Longreach.

DEAN MITCHELL: Someone come and get these bacon and eggs huh?

LINDY KERIN: Sixteen year old Kirk is finishing year 12. He's from Muttaburra, about an hour and a half away.

KIRK: It's always good to have somewhere close to home like a lot of (inaudible) kids work on properties and stuff on the weekends. But boarding school you don't get to do that.

DEAN MITCHELL: So this is the girls' area, they've got their own private lounge room. We've got a spare flat there for a youth worker if we need one.

LINDY KERIN: Dean Mitchell has been the manager here for the past seven years and he says the hostel has played an important role for many families in the region.

DEAN MITCHELL: It's kept a lot of young people or students connected to the community. When kids go to boarding school they become disconnected with the town and family, whereas having kids in a hostel environment within a community like this, it keeps them in town, keeps them connected to family, home, sports.

LINDY KERIN: In its heyday there would be 30 students here but this year the hostel has only had five children.

The council which runs the facility says it's not financially viable.

DEAN MITCHELL: Just because you've got three students doesn't lower your costs that much, you've still got electricity water, food.

LINDY KERIN: And how is the community feeling about this? Because it's been a place that people have come from surrounding smaller towns and communities since the 1960s.

DEAN MITCHELL: Bit up and down. People understand the reasons why it's closing, but they don't want it to close. There's a very emotional attachment in a small community to a place like this.

LINDY KERIN: Kirk says the hostel has been a big part of his life and he's sad about it closing.

KIRK: It would be good if it stayed open. It's been here for ages, really. I know a heap of people from Muttaburra that are old enough to be my dad and they came here so, yeah.

(Sound of bus horn)

DEAN MITCHELL: Bus! Time to go!

LINDY KERIN: Every two years Dean and his wife take the children on an overseas holiday.

Their last trip will be to Japan at the end of the year.

And next month he's opening the centre up for a party for locals to reminisce about their younger days at the hostel.

DEAN MITCHELL: When you've been in a place for so long and you can see it closing, you see the value of the place, it makes it a bit hard. But you also understand the reasons behind it too.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: That's Dean Mitchell from the Longreach Student Hostel ending that report by Lindy Kerin and Chrissy Arthur.