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Yirrkala Community Celebrates Graduation

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R: The graduating class of Yirrkala at the 2017 graduation ceremony with community, NT Government and Batchelor Institute representatives. Image:Darren O’Dwyer

The remote community of Yirrkala has celebrated the achievements of forty graduates this week, who have completed a range of courses at the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education.

The ceremony was the largest of its kind on record for Yirrkala, allowing students to celebrate their accomplishments with their friends and family in community – rather than travel long distances to a graduation held on one of the main campuses in Darwin and Alice Springs.

At this unique cross-cultural graduation ceremony, students donned Batchelor Institute’s yellow gowns and ochre panels and many students also incorporated traditional head pieces and face painting with their academic dress.

The majority of students attained Certificates I and II in Conservation and Land Management, to assist them in their current roles as Aboriginal rangers.

Several students also completed a Certificate II in Resources and Infrastructure Work Preparation, as well as a handful of students receiving certifications in Business, Training and Assessment and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care.

The ceremony’s MC and Teacher Linguist at Yirrkala School Yalmay Yunupingu highlighted the significance of the event and paid tribute to the long line of Aboriginal educators that have paved the way.

“Today Yirrkala also celebrates our community’s educators and the wonderful things that they have done in the world that were not there before. Here we celebrate our Yolŋu people in the education sector who have worked persistently, those of you here and those of you that are not with us any more, we thank you.”

“Bala ga lili, give and take – is a metaphor we use. It indicates water coming in and water going out, from a Yolŋu orientation to Ŋapaki (Non- Yolŋu) orientation and visa versa in a recipocal way. Today we have planted a seed for our future graduation ceremonies.”

“It is a unique occassion because we are also celebrating with Ŋapaki graduates. Ŋapaki who are living and working in Yolŋu Community.”

Through these courses, graduates have developed key skills they can use within their community. Skills that will also help them with employment opportunities and in their personal development.

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L: Batchelor Institute Senior Director of Alliance Management Dr Stephen Hagan with graduates Hamish and Rakuwan Gondarra. Images: Darren O’Dwyer

Among the graduates were father and daughter Hamish and Rakuwan Gondarra, who completed their Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management. Hamish is currently working as a ranger with the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation. During his studies he was also a part of the Learning on Country program, which sees Aboriginal rangers and elders contribute to the education of school students.

Rakuwan was a year 12 VET in Schools student, who completed her year 12 certificate and the Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management as well as becoming a mother.

Batchelor Institute Lecturer Dr Cheryl O’Dwyer, who teaches Conservation and Land Management out in Nhulunbuy, commended the graduates on their progress and achievements.

“Graduations are a day of celebration. We not only celebrate the success and hard work of our students, but we also acknowledge the support from their families, lecturers and mentors. It is such a bright and festive occasion with family singing and dancing each graduand to the stage to receive their qualification. These are such special moments,” said Dr O’Dwyer.

Also in attendance at the ceremony was Mr Yingiya Mark Guyula MLA Independent member for Nhulunbuy and Batchelor Institute Senior Director of Alliance Management Dr Stephen Hagan.

“This was an awe-inspiring graduation ceremony where appreciation of Western qualification was celebrated together with Traditional cultural practices,” Dr Hagan said.

“Batchelor Institute’s Both-ways education philosophy was on show today with literally the whole community of Yirrkala and many representatives from surrounding communities in attendance and demonstrates how our best practice model is achieved.”