© David Hancock
© David Hancock


"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 Kalkiwarra Nadjamerrek

The Nawarddeken Academy is a unique bi-cultural school in the remote indigenous community of Kabulwarnamyo (Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area, western Arnhem Land). It was established at the request of local indigenous elders and has been operating since August 2015 and was registered as an independent school in 2019.

The Nawarddeken Academy began as a one-teacher classroom under a tarp, with minimal resources. The Academy has grown, now with two permanent teachers, three casual Indigenous teaching assistants, an Executive Officer and 16 students. 

Students have made outstanding progress in literacy and numeracy. The community has joint ownership of Nawarddeken Academy, actively oversees the direction of the school and participates in the education of its children on a daily basis.

An average school day begins with literacy and numeracy, integrated with science, history and geography and consistent with the national curriculum. Throughout the day, students focus on cultural learning activities guided by the community and ‘bush trips’ that take advantage of the unique natural environment and cultural setting in which the school is situated.

In late 2014, community members and elders sat down to talk about 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.


Guiding Principles


  • 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.