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Bilingual Education in the NT... AIATSIS Symposium | Warlpiri, Bilingual, Children, Language, Galtha, Education, Yuendumu, Bread | FATSILC, Fed. Aboriginal Torres Strait Island Languages and Culture
Bilingual Education in the NT... AIATSIS Symposium PDF Print E-mail

Back in June, the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies hosted a research symposium called ‘Bilingual Education in the Northern Territory: Principles, Policy and Practice’. Here are two of the papers that were presented: ‘Nganimpa-nyangu kurdu-kurdu, nganimpa-nyangu Warlpiri Our children, our Warlpiri (language)’ by Connie Nungarrayi Walit and ‘Dharktja Dhuwala Djambulu Maypa. My language has layers and layers of meaning’ by Rarriwuy Marika & Dhalulu Ganambar-Stubbs.


Bilingual Education in the NT... AIATSIS Symposium
I was born around Catfish between Wave Hill and Hooker Creek. Then they made a mission at Yuendumu and we settled down here. I did all my schooling at Yuendumu. There was no bilingual program then. I was working as an Assistant Teacher when the bilingual program started in 1974. We Warlpiri Assistant Teachers all learned to read and write Warlpiri. We each had our own class up to year 4. After that I became a literacy worker, collecting and transcribing stories.

When I was born my father and his three wives travelled around by foot in those days. Then they moved all the people from Tanami area and Mt Doreen to Yuendumu, two groups, Ngaliya and Wanayarrka Warlpiri. Then they took half the people to Lajamanu. These communities are not really on Warlpiri land. We should have had a community at Pikilyi (Vaughn Springs station).

Some changes were good like the outstation movement, bilingual education, Remote Area Teacher training, but one by one they take these good things away. Now I work in health, which also has problems but we work together with WYN health to make improvements. Over the years I have supported the struggle to keep bilingual education going because I have worked in it and seen it working well. I have written letters to politicians and newspapers, talked on the internet and for TV. I feel very strongly that the school should work with the families to keep our Warlpiri language strong so the communication between old and young people is not broken.

Many things of our old culture have been lost and taken away from us. We have some stories and ceremonies, we go hunting sometimes but its not so much our everyday life now. The one thing we have left from our parents and grandparents which is really our own is our language, Warlpiri. This is the last thing we have left to pass on to our children and grandchildren.

  Connie Nungarrayi Walit


Garma is a metaphor for the meeting of waters; saltwater rushes in from the sea to meet and mingle with freshwater from the land, with its powerful currents underneath and brackish water. The Elders took the name Garma so they could also implement these ideas into the school through strong yolgnu and ngapaki teaching and learning – because dharuktja dhuwala djambulu maypa, language has many layers of meaning. Its like the barrukala paperbark tree, thin and packed like filo pastry.

With this barrukala we cook something that is hard, the most poisonous thing, the most dangerous and the smelliest bread in the world. We leach out the seed first before the bread is cooked by putting it in brackish water. When the bubbles rise it shows us the poison is being released. This is part of the process for making cycade bread ngathu – every step has to be carefully undertaken.

Garma means that everything has to be taken seriously if the children are going to learn properly at every step of the process. Understood properly and followed properly in the west this is sometimes called ‘total quality management’. We Yolgnu have a concern for quality that is just as profound.

About this time the name galtha was given to us. It describes the moment where an idea is given life and a process started, the very moment when people decide to do something together that is important, a moment of decision. For example, two people may meet and one of them can say ‘it’s about time that dhapi circumcision was arranged for my son’. The other person agrees and that moment, galtha, is the starting point of an important community activity. Nothing can be seen but something has changed.

In the 1980’s we used to take the children for galtha workshops so that stories could be told about the land whilst being on the land. We wanted the children to see how they were connected to each other and the land. Since then the way of showing galtha has changed although we still learn about Yolgnu pedagogy.

  Rarriwuy Marika & Dhalulu Ganambar-Stubbs.


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