5th October, 2021
There’s no better way to celebrate World Teacher’s Day than to shine the light on our biggest partnership in the Northern Territory, with Yirrkala School and Laynhapuy Homelands School (Yambirrpa Schools) to support their C-BATE (Community Based Aboriginal Teacher Education) program.
The Cotton On Foundation has committed $1 million to support Yolŋu people to pursue a career in teaching without having to leave their communities.
The Yirrkala community is home to approximately 900 people, who have fought for over 40 years for their land rights and culture, including bilingual education incorporated into the curriculum. Through Yambirrpa Schools C-BATE, we will help support up to 16 aspiring teachers, with opportunity for the program to influence a similar approach across communities in the Northern Territory beyond that.
The Yambirrpa Schools 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.
Not only does the program support pathways for Yolŋu teachers, it’s a gateway to maintaining language and culture within the community and broader region.
In addition to Yirrkala School, 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.
“I think bilingual education is very important. I didn’t grow up having the opportunity to be able to learn in my own language, my education was completely in English. The importance of learning your own language too is that it connects you to a place, it connects you to who you are. It is a huge source of your identity. C-BATE allows me to be able to do all my study on-country, which is very very important”, Rosealee Grimes, C-BATE student.
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. One of the few bilingual schools remaining in the country, the communities 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.
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 Yambirrpa Schools 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.