Mäpuru is the small and remote homeland community in east Arnhem Land that we visit twice a year on our weaving and living on country programs run by CERES Global. The school at Mäpuru recently became part of Yirralka Education, an entity that enables Mäpuru families, elders and custodians to govern their own educational programs and schooling for their children. It is a model that embeds bi-cultural and bi-literacy education into schooling that takes place on Yolŋu land. The school listens closely to all community members and the Wobulkarra, Guyamirrilil, Ritharrŋu, Ganalbiŋu, Munyuku, Ḻiya-lanmirr Gupapuyŋu land custodians and others that make up the body of the Education Board.

Mäpuru Yirralka College

Yirralka refers to the sacred land that the Creators, your ancestors have given you; your home-land; your sanctuary; a place where you feel immersed in your ancestors presence, knowledge and love; the place where you feel ‘in place’, secure, whole.

Philosophy behind the School

The Mäpuru school forms an important part of the vision for the people of Mäpuru to live ‘self-determined lives of dignity on ancestral estates’. A vision forged long ago by the Mäpuru elders, past and present, for the future of their children, their families, and their town.

Traditional schooling in Australia is a Western institution, based on a Western model that serves Western purposes.  This model assumes that the western viewpoint is the only way of seeing, feeling and thinking about the world and is dismissve of Yolŋu knowledge systems, social theories, traditional skills, assets and  ways of seeing, doing and valuing the world.  This “Westernness” of schooling does not only poorly serve the Mäpuru community, it guides students towards a Western model of thinking that can leave children isolated and lost. However when the authority of Elders is adhered to and Yolŋu pedagogies are thoughtfully incorporated, schools have the potential to empower Yolŋu students to be deeply embedded within their own identity, strengthening traditions and cultural dignity at the same time as providing a solid foundation, empowering them to participate confidently in the broader western world.

 

The school at Mäpuru is a social enterprise where education, community development, social justice, reconciliation and dignity restoration is enabled across the entire town.  This is achieved through governance by the Education Board, giving Mäpuru elders control over the processes of running a school and the content and pedagogy of the curriculum delivered to their children. The Education Board actively involves parents as a matter of priority. This local control of the school enables a deep, philosophical engagement by elders and parents to identify values, knowledge and ways of being that are related to holistic education and child raising. It is the elders who authorize and direct how this is achieved.

Yirralka Education holds the view that if Yolngu students are going to succeed in life and engage with western society it needs to be on their own terms. That necessitates active inclusion and nurturing of Yolŋu languages, and philosophies alongside study trips onto country and working with the correct knowledge authorities.

We are concerned about western influences on our culture and on our children.  We want to be the ones who decide which western influences are introduced here and when, and which we don’t want here. Margaret Bambalarra (Mäpuru Elder)

At the formal appraisal meeting to determine if the NT Government would approve Mäpuru to gain governance of their school, one elder (Roslyn Malngumba September 2017) said:

 ‘… the more we are trusted and respected for the governance of and the work we do within our school, the more our entire family and school community will be energized to contribute, to all work even harder together for our children’s futures’.

The Yirralka Education’s independent school at Mäpuru has recently been approved for registration from January 2018 under Yolŋu leadership. This is a hopeful and aspirational achievement as Yirralka Education deeply acknowledges that Yolŋu knowledge and ways of being in the world offer an alternative, sustainable and harmonious way forward for mankind. 

The formation of Yirralka Education and the Education Board was a pivotal point for Mäpuru families to take control from the government and outside organisations and gain ownership of their lives and the futures of their children and township.

For more information contact:

Linda Miller

Teaching Principal

linda.miller@ntschools.net