Shepherdson College Learning on Country program reconnects students with spiritual Homelands

A longstanding vision from Shepherdson College’s Learning on Country program came to fruition in Term 4 of 2021 as 20 students from Galiwin’ku attended two separate Homelands camps to Maṯa Maṯa and Nyinyikay. Related clan groups live in Homelands, maintaining strong spiritual connections to their traditional lands, preserving their long-established languages and cultural values. Cultural knowledge and stories are deeply connected to particular places and to best meet ILC outcomes, students must be able to visit these places. The size of the Galiwin’ku community means that a wide range of language groups and clans are represented in the student population at school with the majority of students’ homelands located off-island, on the mainland. Thus, Homeland trips are an essential component of best supporting the cultural learning of all students on our island.

The week-long camps were made possible with funding from the Remote Schools Attendance Strategy (RSAS) as well as support from Laynhapuy Homelands School who provided equipment as well as accompanying students from Dhalinybuy and Rorruwuy homelands for combined cultural activities with Yirralka Rangers. These strong collaborative efforts reflect the interconnectedness of Yolŋu people irrespective of schools and organisations.

Students who required support to engage with school were selected for the camp as well as students who had strong cultural connections to the respective Homelands. Traditional owners and senior members of the Galiwin’ku community believe students’ visits to their Homelands will help them “develop a stronger sense of identity” and “make constructive choices in the future”. Preliminary data shows students who attended each camp have recorded an improvement in school attendance and classroom engagement in the weeks following each camp.

Students visited special places and heard stories of journeys and activities of the old people; reinforced their knowledge of land and family kinship; performed cultural songs and dances that linked to Country; and reflected on the personal significance of Homelands. These reflections have been compiled in a video to highlight the importance of camps such as these and to attract funding to support future trips.

With the diversity of clan groups represented at Shepherdson College, there is strong support to continue to connect students with their Homelands to strengthen the cultural outcomes and Two-Way approach of our school.

Where we are located