24 October 2018
Survey shows strong support for college

A SURVEY OF 250 Anindilyakwa traditional owners shows strong support for a remote primary boarding college to be built in the Groote archipelago.

Households in Angurugu, Umbakumba, and Milyakburra, as well as outstations at Four Mile, Malkala, Bartalumba Bay, and Little Paradise were interviewed.

The survey was requested by attendees at a mid-year community meeting.

Its results showed 67 per cent of traditional owners supported setting up a boarding college, while 17 per cent were opposed. The remaining 16 per cent opposed it based on its proposed location, which they believed was a ceremonial site.

Further, 61 per cent of households indicated that children should attend Monday to Friday and go home on weekends, while 39 percent thought children should stay all school term and go home on school holidays.

The biggest support (83 per cent) was for children aged eight to 11 to attend. Just seven per cent said children aged five to eight should attend, and 10 per cent, children all the way from five to 11 years old.

Through the survey, people also gave their views on cultural and family obligations, and on how college housing should be set up for house parents and children.

If approved, it is expected the college would open in 2021, after three years of planning and construction.

ALC chair, Tony Wurramarrba, said more investigation was needed on a college site before a decision could be made by traditional owners.

Meetings and workshops have been held between the ALC, the Groote archipelago’s Community Education Reference Group (CERG), and experts.

KPMG consultant, Kristy Rees, is helping with strategic planning and business planning; education consultants, Dr Kevin Gillan and Ian Smith, are helping set up the college operations and governance; and Cox Architects creatives, Kieran Wong and Heather MacRae, are helping with the college design and investigating a suitable site.


Of 251 community members surveyed:

  • 67% support the college
  • 83% think children aged 8 to 11 should attend
  • 96% think boys and girls should attend
  • 61% think children should attend Monday to Friday, and go home on weekends
  • 39% think children should stay all school term, and go home on school holidays 
  • 100% think children should return to community for funerals and ceremonies.
  • 98% think students should be separated by gender
  • 87% think there should be 6 children per house 
  • 67% think there should be 2 children per bedroom
  • 54% think housing should be separated by clan

Meetings to progress college 

MEETINGS are being scheduled to further plans for a boarding college in the Groote archipelago.

At an October workshop on Groote Eylandt, Registrar for non-government schools in the NT, Tony Considine, linked in remotely to talk to the Community Education Reference Group about guidelines and procedures to register a non-government school. 

Another workshop to move forward with the work has been scheduled for Groote Eylandt Lodge on November 21-22.

A separate meeting is planned to incorporate the Groote Eylandt Bickerton Island Primary College under the Office of the Register of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC), in preparation for the college funding application.

The meeting will be advertised to be held in November.

PREPARATION: The Community Education Reference Group talks with Tony Considine via Skype about registering a non-government school. 

Cultural consultations for school site

TWO of three sites proposed for a remote primary boarding college are being further investigated.

The sites were considered during a series of meetings with Traditional Owners, Jungkayi, Kaku, and other senior custodians of an area on the north coast of Bickerton Island, close to the existing Telstra Tower.

The ALC asked that the meetings consider three sites (see attached map), all big enough for the school.

A well-attended meeting at Milyakburra Cultural Centre in August told the ALC that important Dreaming tracks passed through the area, but at least one of the sites might be free of culturally-significant places, and could be available for the school.

The ALC organised a site visit in September following calls by meeting attendees.

The ALC hired a helicopter for senior men to fly around the area to establish where significant cultural sites were located. A meeting was also held on the beach with other senior men who had driven in. 

ALC anthropologist, Hugh Bland, said after careful consideration of the cultural sites in the area and close inspection of sites A & B, the senior men advised that the two sites could be surveyed.

The final approval of the site will be made at the next meeting of Traditional Owners, senior custodians, and senior members of those Groote Eylandt clans who hold the same Dreamings. 

The results of the further work by the surveyor will be revealed at the meeting, together with the results of a community survey.

SELECTION: The ALC asked that the meetings consider three sites, all big enough for the school.