Galiwin’ku Cultural Awareness Program
The WCE team has been working closely with the Yalu Marnggithinyaraw Indigenous Corporation (Yalu) in Galiwin’ku over the past couple of years. A key aspect of this partnership has been to support Yalu to work collaboratively with Shepherdson College to plan and design a cultural awareness program delivered by local cultural advisers with the participation of all teaching staff. The program provides in-depth information on Yolngu culture through workshop discussions that create opportunities for team teachers to negotiate the intercultural classroom dynamics. This strengthens engagement in education at the local level.
The first few workshops presented an introduction to gurrutu, Aboriginal kinship system, discussing its complexity in identifying differing levels of relationship and understanding how reciprocal bonds of relationship work. Non-Indigenous participants were able to develop a basic understanding of what gurrutu is and how it works. This allowed them to become more familiar with the names used to describe the different family relationships. As most people working in Galiwin’ku have been ‘adopted’ into Yolngu families, it has been an opportunity for everyone to understand the kinship structure better.
The facilitators gave the participants some fun activities so people could understand how connected they are with others around them without necessarily realising it (i.e. not fully understanding gurrutu). Adopting non-Yolngu people into their families is a way for Yolngu people to demonstrate how much they want to support everyone who lives or frequently visits their community. As explained by Evonne Mitjarrandi:
Now you know how connected you are with all the other people in this room and in this community. We are here to support you, that’s why you have been adopted into our families. You are never alone.
The facilitators explained the importance for all teachers to perform a similar gurrutu activity in class on the first day to allow students to get to know one another. The cultural advisors explained that this supports student engagement and also has a role in minimising bullying, as children become aware of their family connections with one another. Ultimately, it helps to keep students engaged in the education system.
Due to the success of these workshops, staff have requested that these sessions continue to be delivered throughout Term 3.
By Eliani Botonand Rosemary Gundjarranbuy