Taking on the World

Transcripts of our Wild Rivers hearings are now online. Here's the answer that struck me most.
Dr Andrew Leigh—Phyllis, part of our job is to think about sustainable economic development for the cape. When I am outside talking to people before the hearings or during the lunchbreak, a lot of people talk about the way in which the education system could be better, but no-one has talked about that in here. I am wondering if you could say something about the way in which the education system could work to get more sustainable economic development. I would be interested in other people’s views on that as well.

Miss Phyllis Yunkaporta—The education system, as I knew it before, has been of low standard. The curriculum in the past, as it is in all cape Aboriginal communities, has been of very low standard. By the time our children go out to mainstream schools they are hardly there—a child in grade 8 still has the understanding of a child in grade 1. Speaking for Aurukun, I was one of the persons who were invited to the States last October; I went to New York and Los Angeles visiting African-American schools. What we have brought back to Aurukun is a new kind of teaching method and we are having that implemented in the school. Of course it took time. At the beginning it pretty much had been, in my words, chaos before that. Since having this new program come in, if you come to the classrooms in Aurukun the kids are fully focused. This new method of teaching has got them going. The teacher is full-on with the tasks given and you cannot believe it when you enter those classrooms—it is as if some of those kids are play-acting. They are not; they are just full-on, focused. I guess in time we have to have expectations for our children to be educated in a way where they have to balance both worlds—the Western world and the traditional way. Of course we want them to hang onto the traditional way because that is where they are going to be identifying themselves for the future. And with them having to venture out into mainstream, we want them to compete. It is a competitive world out there. We want our black little kids to start taking on the world. That is the aim of all this.

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