This bark painting by Yalmay Yunupingu (under the guidance of Dr Yunupingu in 1969) represents the Garma metaphor which is based on many levels of meaning like a network that extends in all directions. It symbolises the kinship relationships that is referred to as ‘Gurruṯu’. This is a Yirritja painting and it belongs to the Gumatj clan representing fire, land, sea and Yolŋu. Where the freshwater meets the sea water, they meet in the middle forming brackish water called ‘Galimiṉḏirrk’. It represents Yolŋu and ŋapaki (non Yolŋu) reconciling and finding a real balance that respects Yolŋu domain –‘bala ga lili’(give and take) in reciprocity.
The Garma metaphor symbolises how the WCE and Yirrkala community are working together and sharing ideas for
the benefit of the community and its expectations around education – we build respect and understanding and seek
a balance together. This sharing and understanding is fundamental to the CDU and Yambirrpa Schools Council
Service Agreement and shapes the process of respectfully working together. This is just like the brackish waters created by the salt and fresh waters coming together to create a new way forward based on a both-ways approach that is a stronger model that always respects and acknowledges the cultural foundations and context of the Yirrkala community and their appreciation of Western knowledges.
Garma Metaphor painted by Yalmay Yunupingu under the guidance of Dr Yunupingu in 1969
According to Dr Marika (2008) the Yambirrpa (fish trap) is a metaphor for giving, sharing, and building strong relationships in the community and school. The fish trap is secure and sound so no fish can escape, like keeping the kids in the school together. The rocks can be seen as the foundation and the elders sitting there who hold that place together and look after the education interests of the school. This helps the school council and the teachers maintain and deliver strong Yolŋu and Ŋapaki (non-Yolŋu) education. We want our children to think cognitively and be prepared for the challenges they have to face in the future, to make pathways under the guidance of those elders (Marika, 2008).
Yambirrpa represents a philosophy and process that we have used throughout the WCE initiative. This way we can achieve sustainable foundations that are in line with the community’s education priorities. The building of the Yambirrpa and the teamwork involved ensures that students, teachers, CDU, Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (BIITE), the Northern Territory (NT) Department of Education and the community are building strong foundations together towards a sustainable learning ground that intertwines Yolŋu and Ŋapaki knowledges. Yambirrpa represents a place that is safe and nurturing with boundaries for students to learn and grow their intellectual knowledge in a two-way learning environment. We work together towards achieving outcomes related to the activities in the Yambirrpa Service Agreement. As per the poster below, developed by WCE staff, the partnership between CDU and Yirrkala community is a shared responsibility arrangement whereby the Yambirrpa Schools Council and the WCE initiative provide opportunities for young people to feel confident to achieve their ambitions and dreams to meet the challenges and succeed in their journey towards higher education.
Yambirrpa diagram developed by Djuwalpi Marika, Yalmay Yunupingu and Bronwyn Rossingh to represent the partnership between Yirrkala community and WCE