A Re-connection in Galiwin’ku

Day 3 – Monday 29th, May 2017

Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir and I flew out of Darwin Airport early, stopping over briefly in Maningrida, one of the largest Aboriginal towns in Northern Territory and then on to our destination, the beautiful Elcho Island, home of the Yolngu community in Galiwin’ku.

Carol from the East Arnhem Council met us at the airport and was our offical community chaperone on this day where we spent time in the Galiwin’ku childcare centre, Yalu Centre and Guliwin’ku Library.

The library proudly displayed the NTLS set of 25 Bilingual Baby Board books developed with Aboriginal Elders, artists and children in a variety of remote communities across the Top End, a project that inspired my trip to NTLS. The traditional stories captured in each Bilingual baby board book were decided by the individual community groups, the Larrakia, Yolngu and Jawoyn peoples.

The books are illustrated by community artists and come with an accompanying CD with traditional songs and language from each clan group. Published copies of the books were distributed to families in each communities and throughout the remote library services in the NT.

After lunch we visited Yalu Marngithinyaraw, a Yolngu community controlled research and education centre where we had the pleasure of gathering with the Yalu Clan Management members on the back stoop of their building. The Yalu team are an inspiring group of Elders, community leaders and researchers. Yalu’ was developed in 1988 from a participatory action research project and has now grown to encompass a ‘Whole of Community Engagement’ initiative led by the Indigenous leadership unit at Charles Darwin University which works with six remote Indigenous communities: Galiwin’ku, Gunbalanya, Maningrida, Tennant Creek, Yirrkala and Yuendumu. It aims to find ways that strengthen pathways into higher education. The intent is to promote long term social, economic and educational benefits through meaningful, bottom-up community engagement.

IMG_1152 I made a wonderful re-connection with one of the Yalu senior women, Rosemary Gundjarranbuy. Rosemary is the current manager of the Yalu. She is also a senior Yolngu educator and researcher who has extensive experience in school-based as well as community projects related to youth welbeing, aged care, health education, early childhood, research and higher education.

Rosemary had come in a bit later to the gathering on the back stoop and had been staring intently at me for some time and then at Aunty Fay. Then she suddenly turned and came up close to us and said, “I know you!” I just smiled and thought to myself, “I couldn’t possibly know Rosemary because I live in Melbourne and she lives in Galiwin’ku!! ” Then she said…”SNAICC” which stands for Secretariat National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care. An amazing organisation that inspires our work.
The last time I connected with SNAICC was in 2015 at their National Conference in Perth where Fay and I delivered our presentation “Connecting Children and Families Boon Wurrung Country”.

Rosemary again said, “I know you ladies…I saw you speak at SNAICC,…I presented before you both.” I could not believe such an incredible coincidence! The fact that out of the hundred or so presentations that go on at a week- long SNAICC Conference, Rosemary was in the same session. Then there were a lot of hugs and our yarning went deeper.

Rosemary sent the men out of the room so she could share some women’s business. I loved seeing this; traditional protocols and business lived in a community. Rosemary softly began to share with us how the senior Women support their new mums who have given birth and how they take them on Country and what they do. I can’t share more. Again it was a privilege to be there with such strong, incredibly smart, spiritual women. I will carry and treasure these moments and the stories they shared with me that day.


I felt incredibly privileged to have been allowed to spend time gathering with some of the Yalu clan members and share our projects and stories with them and learn how they engage their young people in cultural activities, language projects and bring their children, new mums and families out on Country.

The visit to Galiwin’ku flew by and before we knew it we were dropped back at the little airport to await our flight back to Darwin. Weary from our flight charters but buzzing with ideas we sat that evening in the hotel restaurant sipping our free drink voucher spoils and writing up our notes from the day.

Big day tomorrow at the NTLS Round Table in Darwin where we will share our project presentation, “Delivering Community-Led Library Programs on Country.”