Yirrkala LPC team recognised for contribution to ATSI education

The staff of the Yirrkala School Literature Production Centre have been awarded the AEU’s 2017 Arthur Hamilton Award for Outstanding Contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education.

The award was presented to LPC team members Yalmay Yunupiŋu and Rärriwuy Marika at the 2018 annual Federal Conference.

Below we reproduce the submission made accompanying the LPC’s nomination:

The Yirrkala School LPC

The Literature Production Centre (LPC) at Yirrkala School NT has been an integral part of the Yirrkala School bilingual program using Yolŋu Matha (Yolŋu language) and English to deliver children’s education since the inception of the program in the early 1970s.

Back in those days the LPC was situated in a demountable at the old school in the middle of Yirrkala and all resources for Yolŋu Matha had to be created on site – crampedas it was. Early childhood texts were often written by hand using local illustrations while other materials were printed on a gestetner or spirit duplicator.

When an IBM electric typewriter was purchased, the type ball had to be sent to Germany to have the “Ŋŋ” added so texts could be typed in Yolŋu Matha. During the 1980s an offset printer was purchased and used to print more attractive and child-friendly materials with colour pictures. The old darkroom is now a storeroom and the LPC now produces colour printed books and resources using Adobe software on Apple iMac’s and interactive iBooks for the school iPads.

The arrival of computer-based word processing may have saved the LPC from being defunded out of existence. At the peak of funding and support for Aboriginal Education during the 1970′ the LPC employed up to 10 local Aboriginal Literacy Workers, illustrators and informants/authors and translators, a Literature Production Supervisor and a Teacher Linguist.

The LPC produced not only books and resources for the school but also a monthly community magazine called Yuṯana Dhäwu. This community magazine helped to support adult literacy in Yolŋu clan Languages and engaged the community in news and issues of all types including education, health, sport and cultural events.

Community members were the reporters and writers of stories as the large pool of literacy workers would go out into the community to gather stories directly from organisations and community Elders.

“Literature Production Centre dhaŋum ŋayi ŋaraka. Ŋalmaliŋguru djorra’wu, dhäwuwu, romgu ga dhärukku. Djalkiri dhaŋum yaka ŋayathan.”
“The Literature Production Centre is the backbone. For our books, our stories, our culture and our languages. This is the foundation.”
Yalmay Yunupiŋu, Yirrkala School Teacher Linguist, 2017

Today the LPC team of Yalmay Yunupiŋu, Rärriwuy Marika, Bamuruŋu Munuŋgurr and Jake Stockley operate alongside a supportive and proactive teaching team. The community, school leaders and all staff at Yirrkala School support and continue to help to build the bilingual program.

Across the school the LPC co-ordinates the Yolŋu Indigenous Languages and Culture program including Yolŋu Matha, Galtha Rom and Garma Maths. Our Yolŋu Team Teachers, some of them graduates from our bilingual program, deliver the current Yolŋu Matha bilingual program through Dhuwaya, the first language of Yolŋu children at Yirrkala.

The percentage of Yolŋu Matha taught ranges from 90% in early grades to 10% in the older grades in accordance with the Staircase Model for Bilingual Education. The LPC supports the Team Teachers, working together on planning, resource selection, production and assessment, IT support and mentoring in a supportive workspace.

Yalmay And Rärriwuy received the Arthur Hamilton Award on behalf of the LPC team at the AEU Federal Conference 

Together we select and produce resources including; books, songs, videos, activity sheets, play based learning resources, hand writing books, dictionaries, certificates, flash cards, alphabet charts, translations, posters, desk charts. The LPCproducesall the resources that a teacher might need inYolŋu Matha languages.

The LPC has historically been a support centre for teacher training through the Remote Area Teacher Education Program and many Aboriginal teachers, educators and linguists started their careers in the LPC. Today we continue this legacy as the place for Yolŋu Team Teachers to undertake Batchelor Institute’sCertificate IV in Education Support program.

The LPC has a new trainee Literacy Worker.She is a graduate from the Yirrkala School bilingual program so she is highly literate in both English and Yolŋu Matha languages including Dhuwaya, Dhuwala and Dhuwal languages.

Through the bilingual program the LPC helps to improve student outcomes in Yolŋu Language and Culture, English as a Second Language, Mathematics, Science, Geography and the Arts. Community engagement is encouraged in many ways including supporting literacy in the home with the quarterly bilingual school magazine. The program is focused on increasing reading volume and interest through the production of large sets of readers and new interactive iBooks in Yolŋu Matha Languages.

Culturally appropriate, bilingual education including programs like Galtha Rom, learning on Country and Garma Maths help to support students’ sense of identity and wellbeing. By learning this way Yolŋu students can feel proud as they experience success and see that their identity, their languages and culture are valued.

Over the years the LPC has worked with many well-known authors, linguists and Elders. Today the LPC team continue this legacy, producing books written by Yolŋu Elders in Dhuwaya and other Yolŋu Matha languages with the help of linguists and illustrators from the within the community and across Australia.

The LPC worked in conjunction with a professional film maker to produce a video on the history of Yirrkala School (see Dhanbul Djamarrkuli‘ on Vimeo:) and is currently working in conjunction with Melbourne University on a Yolŋu Matha Phonics App that will support early learners understanding of the alphabet and phonetical awareness necessary for later literacy.

The LPC is guided by the Yambirrpa Schools Vision Statement and supports the work of the Yambirrpa Schools Council, which is the established community-based decision-making body at Yirrkala School.

The work of the LPC adheres to the Yolŋu metaphor of ‘Ŋathu’. Ŋathu is the sacred bread made from highly toxic cycad nutswhich must be treated in a special Yolŋu process to ensure the sacred breadis fit for consumption. The process of creating culturally appropriate learning resources for Yolŋu children is the same – acarefully graduated process.

All Yolŋu Matha resources must be created in acareful process to ensure that they are correct, appropriately levelled and consistent with a Yolŋu worldview ensuring the maintenance of both Yolŋu languages and culture.

Recognition must be given to all the people, Yolŋu and Balanda, who have contributed to over 40 years of successful Yolŋu bilingual education at Yirrkala School through the Literature Production Centre. To list them all would be impossible as many are no longer with us.