I worked at Yirara College for a number of years …

Comment on Yirara: Rebellion and failure or meeting a challenge? by Waka.

I worked at Yirara College for a number of years but have also had many years experience of working “in the bush”.
It grieves me to read this article.
My memories of the Yirara College community was one of safety and security. It is very hard to explain to outsiders the reason how and why Yirara College operates the way that it does. For most students, Yirara College will offer safety, security and a place to learn and grow both academically and spiritually.
There are many questions and comments made by readers of this article but the answers to these questions are very complex.
My memories were that parents were very keen and motivated for their children / grandchildren to have a good education, and to learn white man’s ways.
However, their cultural tools in encouraging children to go to school are very limited. Traditionally children were given independence and were served on by the parents. For Aboriginal parents, it is simply not easy to make your child go to school if they do not want to go.
We have moved people in a relatively short period of time from a nomadic lifestyle toward a sedentary lifestyle of large communities where food is sought out of the local store.
We have given them what we believe is an incredibly generous amount of money to provide for this food and other needs. The truth is far from this. They can mostly only afford a poor diet which will lead to health problems.
They have few budgeting skills and those that do choose to spend their money wisely will have many mouths to feed.
This is perpetuated by those addicted to alcohol and now those addicted to drugs. These problems are endemic in most communities around the world that fit this description.
Lots of children in Aboriginal communities will not fare well at school. Many communities have people from different cultural groups. They are expected by us to live and learn together.
This will inevitably lead to teasing which will in turn lead to truancy. There are other reasons that are complex and difficult for us to understand.
My recollection is that parents loved to send their children to Yirara College and wanted the safety and the security for their children, that Yirara College provided. This was the primary reason why parents would send their children to Yirara College.
Families send their children to Yirara College for good reasons. Also, Yirara College has recruited children for good reasons. Yirara College, as I recall, went out to all the Aboriginal communities that would allow them to in the hope of enrolling students to offer them a better education. End of story.
Everything in the Aboriginal community has been expensive, not just education. My recollection is the the Finke River Mission has always been a very accountable organisation that spends wisely and takes pride in good accountable money management.
I also clearly recall the wonderful and regular cultural education that was provided by the school. To an outsider, Yirara College might be a strict school, but to people with an understanding of “anangu way” Yirara College offered and I hope still offers a safe environment where children / young people can be educated both academically and spiritually.

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