Recognising 10 Years of Learning on Country

In the first week of August 2022, thirteen Learning on Country (LoC) schools came together on country at Nitmiluk National Park to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the Learning on Country Program. Students, teachers, principals, steering committee, Cultural Advisors and Rangers, took the time to recognise the achievements of the ten years strong program.

The LoC Steering Committee came together during the celebration and elected two Co-Chairs Cindy Jinmarabynana and Danny Dangadanga who will lead the committee for the next twelve months.

Kicking off the Celebration with a Funding Announcement
On the first day of the celebration as everyone settled into their seats, it was announced that the Learning on Country program received an additional six years of funding from the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA).

A spokesperson from NIAA announced $29 million dollars of funding to ensure the program can strengthen and expand over the next six years to 2028. With this commitment from the Federal Government, the LoC program can employ more Indigenous leaders, and ensure more middle school students are included in LoC.

The Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians the Hon Linda Burney, a Wiradjuri woman, said “This significant investment will ensure many more young people benefit from this program for years to come and remain strongly connected and proud of their traditional knowledge system.”

The LoC Program Team would like to thank NIAA, for the support and funding which provides stability and sustainability to the Program.

Strong on Country
“What does it mean to be strong on country?”

This question was asked of the attendees at the LoC 10 year celebrations during the Strong Men and Strong Women sessions. These sessions created a shared space for the participants and provided an opportunity to build connections, build confidence and celebrate what it means to be strong on country.

Timmy Duggan sat the men’s group in a yarn circle and lead a discussion exploring leadership in communities. Looking beyond what it means to be a leader, the group discussed what it means to be an Aboriginal leader. The men spoke on how everyone can celebrate our Aboriginal leaders and take pride in their success. It was a powerful moment for the men to open up to one another and express their thoughts and feelings about what it means to be a leader.

At the women’s camp Kylie Burn took the group through self-reflection and painting exercises which focused on discovering what it means to be a strong woman in the community.

She asked each woman to paint an image which reflects what being a strong person means to them and asked for a follow-up sentence which also symbolised what makes a strong person.

For the participants being strong on country meant many different things, here’s some ideas that came up during the sessions:

      • • Helping one another.
        • Painting
        • Story telling with elders
        • Taking kids on out on country
        • Dancing
        • Listening to others with no judgement

These sessions proved to be an amazing opportunity for all the men and women at the forum to come together, share, and connect with one another.

LoC Youth Forum
The students who attended our ten-year celebration had the opportunity to take part in workshops and discussions lead by Timmy Duggan, who is a Darwin man with family connections to the Warramungu people of Central Australia and the Nykinya people of the Kimberley.

In 1996, when Timmy was 18, he became the first person from the Northern Territory to join the National Basketball League. And now he teaches young people how to regulate their responses, manage their emotions and make positive decisions.

Timmy’s workshop on the day incorporated a ‘calmness on the court’ approach by introducing to the students’ ways to take control of their decision making. Timmy used mental imagery and yarning/calmness circles to lead reflections on individual behaviour and team performance.

The tools and strategies they learned, such as deep breathing, changing perspective and mental imagery, can be applied at school, with their friends and in their home life.

Final Celebration at the Jetty
The ten-year celebration was wrapped up on the final night and enjoyed a range of ‘Jawoyn Street-Food’ cooked by Nitmiluk Tours. This was made extra-special by rocking out to live music next to the beautiful Katherine Gorge.

Jaxon de Santis gave a brilliant solo performance to warm up the crowd as everyone enjoyed the food. East Journey then gave a fantastic performance and showcased the talents of Gulthapura (Laynhapuy LoC Assistant Coordinator) and Rawon (Dhimurru Senior Cultural Advisor).

Thank you!

There are a number of people to thank for the success of the ten-year celebration. Thank you to,

  • LoC Program Management Team, Anna, Shane, Bessie, Rebecca
  • NLC Staff
  • Steering Committee & New Chairs Cindy Jinmarabynana & Danny Dangadanga
  • Jawoyn Association & the Jawoyn Rangers
  • Banatjarl Strongbala Wimun Grup
  • Djilpin Arts for their amazing Welcome to Country and Dancers
  • Nitmiluk Tours & Cicada Lodge (Cicada Lodge head chef coordinated the final night celebration)
  • Parks and Wildlife (Nitmiluk National Park)
  • Youth Forum Facilitators – Timmy Duggan and Shontelle Heard
  • Strong Women Facilitator – Kylie Burn (Conservation Management)
  • Wagiman & Wardaman Rangers

And a final thank you to everyone who came along to our celebration!

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