Yolngu e-Learning online School

By Richard Trudgen

“What are we going to do now? I keep my children at home and teach them real manners, law, and respect. I know if they go to the community school they will only learn to be lawless adults. They will hardly learn to read and write as I did in school in the mission days. So I keep them at home and teach them real things.”   Yolngu Parent 2015

A Modern IT Answer

Almost half of Yolngu children do not attend school. However, there is a modern IT answer. In 2011 Why Warriors Pty Ltd developed 140 Yolngu Matha to English e-Learning modules and trialled them. The response from Yolngu Leaders and parents at Galiwin’ku was overwhelming. Yolngu children, teenagers and parents loved it. Sadly we have never been able to get follow-up funding for it even though we proved it worked.

The Yolngu response to the E-Learning trial Galiwin’ku – Elcho Island 2011

Many Yolŋu parents desperately want their children to get a good education. But they have limited options.

Because Yolngu people speak an original Australian (Aboriginal) language not English they get locked out of real learning opportunities. The current mainstream schooling system offers them little real hope despite many still trying to use it. The lack of culturally appropriate educational environments leaves many Yolŋu students traumatised and/or struggling to learn.  The current system destroys many students’ and teachers’ real potential.

For many decades now I have pushed for the training of teachers in Indigenous languages and good cultural competency and communication skills training. This worked for me in 1973 when I was forced to learn the Yolngu Matha language and the people’s culture under the then Mission system. If adopted this approach would not only deliver great benefits in education outcomes, but it would also provide massive savings to government budgets, by slowing down the very expensive teacher turnover. Sadly we have not been able to get any real commitment to this sort of training from any government.

An effective and efficient IT solution

Another solution is to create an e-Learning online Yolŋu-centred school. Once developed it will continue to deliver genuinely effective Yolŋu-friendly education for many decades. This would bring the full power of Yolngu Matha language and culture into play in a powerful way, as it has for over 40,000 years.

Accessed by many

This resource could be accessed by many. It could be used by Yolŋu parents and Elders, Yolngu teens, adults and children to self-drive their own learning. It could also be used by mainstream schools to turbocharge the classroom experience of Yolngu Matha students.

During the 2011 trial, we heard many stories of Yolngu teens and young adults wanting the computers with Yolngu Matha/Engish learning modules loaded on them (computers that had no internet connection ability) to take to their rooms in town and on Homelands where they could practice the learning in a private safe learning environment. They wanted to do this to save face and feeling shame about their inability to read their own Australian language (Yolŋu Matha) or English.

Downloadable learning to write in both their original Australian language and English could also be loaded on this same platform along with many other things. All instructions (audio sound bites) would be in Yolŋu Matha. This would allow the student to have full control and complete cognitive engagement. It would also teach maths, world history and science – in Yolŋu Matha and English – through to a university level. This would be a resource that Yolŋu communities can control to drive their own learning experience, combining the best of traditional and contemporary knowledge.


New Yolngu Learning Portal – Djamabatjmarram.com

The djambatjmarram home page showing video audio and lessons links

Djambatjmarram” means to “develop your skill level” or get trained. This is our new Yonlgu Learning Centre. It offers Videos, Lessons and Audio Podcasts.

e-Learning school built-in

Why Warriors has built this new Yolngu Learning Centre on the basis of the above idea. The e-Learning school is incorporated in this site. It is under ‘Lessons” and it incorporates 3 modules called Yolngu School, Lesson 1, 2 & 3.

Sadly this section of the site has collapsed due to the fact it was built on FLASH, which is no longer usable. We now need support to convert these Yolngu Matha / English lessons into HTML 5.

However, on this same ‘Lessons’ site, we have also produced 300 simple English learning lessons. Yolngu Matha does not have joining words, so many Yolngu Matha speakers have some problems with them. So we have produced 300 lessons here starting from the word ‘the’ in the first lesson and going through to ‘power’ in lesson 300. These are audio-activated lessons that make it very easy for Yolngu to access and use them. We are looking for support to produce another 200 simple English word lessons and then to go on and build a full English learning program that works from Yolngu Matha to English. Please contact us if you can help us in any way.

A real game-changer for Yolŋu!

This “Djambatjmarram” Yolngu Learning Centre is a real game-changer. It offers Yolngu people a real opportunity to gain both basic and advanced knowledge across a whole range of subjects from;

health issues

Business concepts

Law and Governance issues

It attempts to fill the information gaps, clearing the smoke of confusion that contributes to the marginalisation that many Yolŋu and their communities experience.

The site also has “Hard words” section to resources to advance English literacy learning.  Yolngu high school and university students are hitting the English ceiling very early on and most drop out of their education experience, returning home broken people. Many end up as itinerants in Darwin or other major towns. Now caught between two cultures.

Students of other nationalities can find meaning to Hard English words they encounter in higher levels of education online in minutes. This allows them to understand these English words in their thinking language and continue with their education. But Yolngu and other original Australian (Aboriginal) speakers can’t. They just hit the ceiling very hard not understanding what is being talked about, become traumatised, experience feelings of being useless because they are black; and drop out. Our hard word section on this site is very small and needs a major development. Sadly again we have not got the $$ to do it.

Development of the site

The development of the site was originally funded by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and had a focus on education regarding economic and business development challenges as well as achieving improved general English literacy.  We have also loaded other programs we had that were recorded many years ago on important subjects like health, as well as our COVID-19 pandemic podcast and videos.

Djamabatjmarram.com is in its early stages of development. The translations of the written content to Yolŋu Matha has run into problem due to the lack of funds. And we have not been able to get ongoing funding to continue its development. I would like some ideas guys as to how we can do this. It seems the whole idea is beyond government bureaucrats to understand this.

Why Warriors on behalf of many Yolŋu parents and leaders are looking for private partners to help us build this 10,000-student online Yolngu School.

Want to make a real difference to Yolngu education? Please contact us now.

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