"We are teaching young people about the country, the walking routes, the place names, experiences with the country and then they in turn follow this way. This is not a new thing. It's just what our old people before us taught us"
Professor Mary Kolkiwarra Nadjamerrek
The Nawarddeken Academy offers a unique model of bi-cultural, community-driven education in remote Indigenous communities in west Arnhem Land. The Nawarddeken Academy was established at the request of local Indigenous elders, who wanted desperately for children to be able to access fulltime education in their home communities.
Based in the Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area (IPA), the Nawarddeken Academy began in 2015 at the community of Kabulwarnamyo as a one-teacher classroom under a tarp, with minimal resources. Since these humble beginnings we have grown and thrived, now operating three registered independent schools at Kabulwarnamyo (registered in early 2019), Manmoyi and Mamardawerre (registered in late 2021).
Each campus has two permanent teachers, up to four casual Indigenous teaching assistants, and up to 20 students. Communities have joint ownership of Nawarddeken Academy, actively overseeing the direction of the school and participating in the education of their children on a daily basis.
In 2021, teachers began delivering a curriculum centred around the Kuwarddewardde Malkno (Stone Country Seasonal Calendar), integrating national learning outcomes with the seasonality and deep cultural knowledge of the Warddeken IPA. This unique curriculum ensures Nawarddeken Academy students are exposed to important teaching and learning experiences from Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge systems.
In establishing Nawarddeken Academy, community members and elders sat down to discuss what they wanted a school to deliver for the young people of the stone country. Developed collaboratively through community consultation and workshops, these Objectives and Guiding Principles provide a clear foundation for what the Nawarddeken Academy will achieve:
• Empower young people to be strong and confident in both knowledge systems and who have the capacity to become ambassadors internationally.
• Preserve Nawarddeken languages and culture through bilingual and bicultural experiential learning.
• Promote intergenerational education where communities share learning experiences to conserve indigenous knowledge and languages.
• Develop clear pathways for young Indigenous people of West Arnhem Land that match their aspirations and the aspirations of their families.
• Support the social, cultural, emotional and physical wellbeing of every child.
• Respect, and the ability to integrate customary modes of learning guided by our old people with a western educational curriculum.
• Facilitate a unique curriculum based on our land, language and culture, using formal and informal teaching and learning approaches; emphasising mental and physical health, while cultivating individual and collective respect and responsibility.
• Incorporate flexibility, enabling continuous improvement and positive responses to changing circumstances.
• Access all available technology to overcome the disadvantage of our geographical remoteness, and to ensure our resilience.
• Recruit, support and retain high quality staff underpinned by strong leadership and competent governance.