We’re so proud and excited to announce our latest partnership with the Yirrkala and Laynhapuy Homeland communities, in Australia’s North-East Arnhem Land, committing to $1 million over three years. Partnering with Yirrkala School and Laynhapuy Homelands School, on their Community Based Aboriginal Teacher Education (C-BATE) Program, we will support Yolŋu people to become qualified teachers without having to leave their communities.
The Yirrkala community consists of approximately 900 people, who have fought for over 40 years for their land rights and culture, including bilingual education to be incorporated into their curriculum. It is a basic human right that children be taught in their first language, which in Yirrkala is in Yolŋu Matha.
A bilingual program ensures that Yolŋu children are first taught in their own culture and language, so that they have higher success rates in their schooling, and also in English-speaking and Western culture.
Similarly, the Laynhapuy Homelands School have been guided by strong Yolŋu leaders in the delivery of their education for nearly 50 years. Indigenous language and culture is at the core of their education program, facilitated through on-country activities in partnership with Yolŋu educators and community leaders.
Both the Yirrkala and Laynhapuy Homeland communities share a strong Yolŋu influence in their education systems, with a focus on Both Ways education in the Yolŋu and non-Indigenous ways, language, identity, history and culture.
No one says it better than the Yolŋu community, who shared their vision for young people with us, which has helped shape the C-BATE program. “Yolŋu children are to be educated in their communities, via a two-way learning system of education that empowers them in their culture, language and identity with strong pathways to employment.”
As one of few bilingual schools remaining in the country, the community face the challenge of a lack of qualified Yolŋu teachers in the region with only three qualified Yolŋu teachers approaching retirement, left working in Yirrkala School, and none in Laynhapuy Homeland Schools.
Two of these retiring teachers at Yirrkala School, Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs who is also the Co-Principal and Yalmay Yunupingu who is also a Teacher Linguist, were a part of a similar program to C-BATE that existed in the 1980’s and 1990’s, which successfully supported Yolŋu to become qualified teachers.
“In our experience community based education was a strong and powerful program to become teachers. All who studied in this way were successful. We want to see this again with our new Yolŋu teachers,” reflect Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs and Yalmay Yunupingu.
Through C-BATE, we will help support up to 16 students to achieve a qualification by the end of 2022, with the opportunity for the program to influence a similar approach across communities in the Northern Territory beyond that.
The C-BATE partnership will provide students with access to a Teacher Coordinator and Tutors who will assist students in their chosen academic pathways, and also scholarships, course fees, and other operational costs.
So not only does the C-BATE program support pathways for Yolŋu people to become qualified teachers, it’s a gateway to preserving language and culture within the community and broader region. And we absolutely love that.
Yirrkala School Team Teachers and C-BATE students, Gawiny Gurruwiwi and Gandhurrminy Yunupingu provide insight into how important C-BATE is to delivering a quality education to Yolŋu people within community.
“We are family and community oriented in the way we approach teaching. We are passionate to become qualified teachers. We want to guide our Yolŋu children to succeed. It is important for us to study in close connection to our experienced Yolŋu teachers so that we can learn from them. If we have to travel away to study we will not have access to their wisdom or the support from our community,” explain Gawiny Gurruwiwi and Gandhurrminy.
Central to Yolŋu culture is the ‘Yaka Gana’ ethos, meaning ‘Always together, never alone’. Communities like Yirrkala and the Laynhapuy Homelands live by this, and a program such as C-BATE allows aspiring Yolŋu teachers to continue to live this as they access their chosen pathways. Yolŋu can pursue their studies within their communities, and with the support of their family, teachers, Elders, and broader community members.
“Training Yolŋu teachers is so important. We need our Yolŋu teachers to make sure that our language and culture does not fade away. Without them, our children will not be able to carry our language and culture into the future. We don’t want our children to become like children down south, they are Yolŋu children. We want them to speak their language strongly, not broken language, mixing English and Yolŋu däruk,” comments Yirrkala School Language Specialist, Dela 1 (Yunupingu) Mununggurr.