Travel 900km east of Darwin along a red dirt gravel road through Arnhemland and you’ll find Yirrkala, a community by the sea that we have proudly been working with since 2013.
This NAIDOC week, we’re shining a light on our Australian Projects in the Northern Territory, in line with this years NAIDOC theme, ‘Because of her, we can’; celebrating the essential role that women have played – and continue to play – as active and significant role models at the community, local, state and national levels.
The Mulka Project
Yirrkala is home to the Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Arts Centre, where the Mulka Project was born. The mission of the Project is to sustain and protect Yolŋu culture and knowledge in Northeast Arnhem Land under the leadership of community members young and old.
The Cotton On Foundation’s link to Yirrkala began in 2013, through funding of the Darraynga stage at the Mulka Arts Centre. A stage soon much loved by students and community members alike, further supporting the Mulka Centre as the creative hub of East Arnhemland.
Walking through the Arts Centre on any given day will see groups of children all ages using the state of the art facilities. Partaking in activities from songwriting workshops, to print making, learning instruments, creating animations and even coding games. The Mulka Arts Centre is renowned globally, attracting a range of teachers, guest speakers and profiles such as Shelley Morris, Bangarra Dance Theatre, his royal highness Prince Charles, and many more.
Behind the Arts Cetre’s international profile, the Mulka Project’s core business is its involvement in partnerships with academia, museums and individual researchers with collections and projects significant to the region.
These partnerships in Yirrkala are ever growing. With the community’s guidance, we can continue to encourage the regions youth and support their identities and strong connection to their culture. Such initiatives demonstrating proven positive impact on educational outcomes.
Learning On Country
The ultimate purpose of connection, strengthening identity and cultural empowerment is why we also support another unique program, Yirrkala School’s and Dhimurru Land Management Corporation’s; Learning on Country. The program connects Yirrkala’s youth with Dhimurru Rangers to explore a range of cultural and environmental topics, all undertaken on country. Learning from elders, teachers and each other, the program uses environmental and cultural activities to support classroom learning and educational outcomes. These unique Galtha-Rom workshops maintain deep cultural knowledge and identity whilst equipping the students with an official Certificate 2 in Conservation and Land Management.
The program was developed collaboratively between local elders, Yolngu senior rangers, educators and the Australian Government. The workshops are undertaken at homelands, the djalkiri wanga or traditional homes of the Yolngu clan groups. Not only providing a powerful tool in educating young people, the workshops also empower adults and elders to continue to come together to support their youth. After all, it is the elders who have fought so hard over the years to keep this style of learning.
Because of her, we can…
Meet Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr, principal of Yirrkala school, a proud Yolŋu woman and leader of her community. Her vision is that every child is appreciated, and that every child knows that dreams are possible. Merrkiyawuy is a member of an Indigenous-academic collaboration with academics from Macquarie University and the University of Newcastle and is an Honorary Associate of the Department of Environment and Geography at Macquarie University. Discover her story…