Early in Term 1, Mr Phillip Heath, accepted the opportunity to join with the Board of the Yothu Yindi Foundation to discuss the creation of Dhupuma Barker in a homeland community near Nhulunbuy in East Arnhem Land.
The word “dhupuma” is a Yolngu term that means “Look Up, Look Beyond”. The name Dhupuma is a reference to the original Dhupuma College, which was a secondary boarding school which operated from 1972 to its sudden closure in 1980. The community yearn to see their own independent school and honoured Barker by inviting us in a partnership to deliver the primary component of this. The graduates of Dhupuma College later became leaders of their communities and created the acclaimed 1990s rock band, Yothu Yindi, which introduced traditional words from Yolngu language into rock songs that hit the charts throughout the world. The same spirit of creative enterprise some years later established the world renowned Garma Festival, which draws together people from around Australia and beyond who seek to develop a closer sense of reconciliation by understanding traditional culture and identity. In 2019 Mr Heath was part of an education forum that addressed the Garma Festival. It was there that he met several leaders from the Yolngu community who had heard about Barker's work with Darkinjung and Ngarralingayil. A similar spirit and hope was shared.
The elders of the Yolngu community yearn to see Dhupuma rise again, forty years after it was closed. They want their own children and grandchild to experience two-way learning. We are humbled and thrilled that the YYF have honoured Barker College by forging a partnership (MOU) to make Dhupuma happen.
The School will be a K to 6 centre with a conjoined Families as First Teachers (FaFT) facility adjacent. The Commonwealth has funded FaFT for a two year period and NT Education is handing this operation over to Barker as the registering authority for the purposes of compliance.
During a recent visit, Mr Heath along with several Barker colleagues met with the YYF Board, the Gumatj Corporation leaders and the Gunyangara community in NE Arnhem Land. They looked at the existing school buildings and planned the work that will need to be done to be ready to open by April (Term 2) 2021. Darkinjung Barker teacher, Tom Spencer, who is known to many in the Junior School, will take on the responsibility of being the first Barker teacher to work at Dhupuma Barker and work with the community to develop an approach to learning that wraps Yolngu Learning around the Australian Curriculum. He will move to Nhulunbuy with his family in the coming weeks.
The funds needed to develop this work comes from the kindness of people who share the same spirit of hope and reconciliation. Just as our work at Yarramalong and Wollombi does NOT draw from Barker funds provided by parent fees, the School seeks to raise the resources from elsewhere to realise the big vision of reconciliation in Australia by participating in education, one life at a time. There is more work to do to ensure that we will have the funds we need to secure the future. But we press ahead with quiet assurance that the work is right and that it continues to advance our charter of bringing hope “Beyond the Mint Gates”.