The School opened as a bilingual primary school for 25 Yolŋu children from the community. By the end of the first week, an additional four students were enrolled, and several students from other communities had come to spend a day or more checking out the new school!
Dhupuma Barker is a partnership between the Yothu Yindi Foundation and Barker College, aspiring to revive the ideals of the former Dhupuma College, and prioritise Yolŋu Matha (language), Rom (culture, knowledge) and Galtha (ways of learning). The original Dhupuma College opened in 1972, as the first transitional college for high school students in Arnhem. The school aimed to embed Yolŋu knowledge and teachings into boarding school life. The name ‘Dhupuma’ was given to the school by Mr Mungurrawuy Yunupingu of Yirrkala and refers to ‘looking up to the future’. Dhupuma College operated successfully for 9 years and many of today’s Yolŋu leaders are alumni, with a rich understanding of the importance and efficacy of culturally informed education and a vision to promote this for their grandchildren.
Tom Spencer, formerly of Darkinjung Barker, has relocated with his family to Gunyangara to teach in the school, alongside our Yolŋu staff Janet, Caroline, Dela and Valerie, with wellbeing support from Berry. Sophie Mynott, Director of Barker Global Partnerships, and Marina Wangurra, Barker Global Project Manager – East Arnhem, have managed the project to set up Dhupuma from Barker’s side, with the invaluable assistance of many Barker staff, parents and students who supported the project.
The opening was a momentous occasion with a bungul (ceremonial dance) performed by students and members of the community, a smoking ceremony for students and staff, speeches and a magnificent cake. The students loved receiving their uniform and exploring their new classroom, and parents and community members enjoyed the opportunity to meet Phillip Heath, Alison Binet, Mr Tom and Miss Sophie, and to congratulate them and Marina, Janet, Caroline, Dela, Valerie and Berry on their work to get the students enrolled and the school ready for operation.
The opening of Dhupuma Barker is the first step in a broader vision for Yolŋu education in the region. The primary school, with an attached early childhood education program, is the start of what will ultimately be a whole of life education project, on which Yothu Yindi Foundation have partnered with Studio Schools Australia and Melbourne University to deliver high school and tertiary education.