Bi-cultural education

A bright future

In remote areas of the Northern Territory, receiving an education can be a real challenge. Many Indigenous communities across Arnhem Land are too small to qualify for government public school funding, and there can be barriers to bi-cultural or bilingual learning. These factors can make it difficult for rangers and their family to live on, and care for their Country.

The key to successful education in Arnhem Land, is ensuring it is delivered in a way that is locally and culturally relevant. By promoting strong culture and the transfer of local land management knowledge, students can be encouraged to attend school more regularly and be better prepared to transition into ranger traineeships or other employment pathways when they complete school.

Currently, accessing education can can be difficult for the children of Indigenous rangers in West and Central Arnhem Land. The homeland communities that house ranger bases can be incredibly remote and are often too small to qualify for full-time government public school funding. As a result, rangers have to move away into towns (which have fewer employment opportunities) to enrol their children in full-time education.

The Northern Territory has the lowest proportion of students at or above the national minimum standards for literacy and numeracy, and attendance rates for Indigenous students across the very remote areas of the NT are currently sitting at 56 per cent – well below the national average of 80 per cent for Indigenous students.

Indigenous rangers are recognised by their communities as being well positioned to facilitate better learning outcomes on Country. The Karrkad Kanjdji Trust recognises the implicit link between cultural heritage, community strength and conservation outcomes, and thus supports bi-cultural education projects where government funding is insufficient. Together with our partners, we are investing in the next generation of rangers.

Orphaned Country – the term used by Bininj to describe a landscape without its people – is one of the biggest threats to conserving biodiversity and passing down intricate Indigenous ecological knowledge. Elders want to see the next generation of Traditional Custodians growing up and being educated on Country, in both local Traditional Knowledge and the Australian Curriculum.

Establishing locally delivered bi-cultural education aims to address low rates of formal education in remote Indigenous communities, enable rangers to continue to live and work on Country, and ensure that critical cultural knowledge is passed down and practiced into the future. Bi-cultural education involves children, from early learners to high school students, regularly spending time on Country with Elders, community members and rangers. It’s about getting children out of the classroom and onto their ancestral lands, hearing the stories, singing songs, gathering food and learning how to manage Country. Contextually appropriate content can then be incorporated into the Australian Curriculum, making for a more engaging school experience.