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Galiwin’ku Young Mothers Finding a New Way

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A group of mainly Aboriginal women and children dressed in an array of colourful clothing stand on grass next to a road corner with a telegraph pole in the background and a sign that says Give Way.
Give Way to Galiwin’ku Young Mothers - the ladies on their last day of the course
30 Oct 2017

Completing a certificate course is easier when you have the support and friendship of your fellow students.

In April 2017, 16 young mothers from Galiwin’ku, Elcho Island in the Northern Territory, completed a Certificate II in Family Wellbeing, run by the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education.

They were all very interested in doing some study because many of them did not finish high school when they had their babies.

Naomi Gurruwiwi, aged 25, attended the course, stated;

‘Because some of us young mothers dropped out of school, we didn’t complete our year 12,’ Naomi said.

‘I was thinking I wasn’t going to pass but I did my best and worked hard to complete. It feels good to have something like this in the community and give good opportunity for me as a young mother. Now I want to do more study in Early Childhood through Batchelor College’.

The course was part of the Indigenous Parenting Services (IPS) program run by the local Indigenous corporation, Yalu Marŋgithinyaraw.

As there is no adult education centre in Galiwin’ku, the Yalu IPS team organised Batchelor Institute to deliver the four-week course locally. Despite the challenges of raising children and juggling cultural and family obligations, the mothers were incredibly committed and engaged with their learning.

Another participant on the course, 22 year old Joanne Dhurrkay, said her favourite part of the course was talking with other young mothers and working together.

‘We can learn both ways, Yolngu and Balanda (non- Yolngu),’ Joanne said.

Group of mainly Aboriginal women and children sit on colourful mats in a room with walls lined with bookshelves.
Studying every day for 4 weeks

Karen Khan, Family and Wellbeing lecturer from Batchelor Institute, taught and supported the ladies as they completed the certificate.

‘The Family Wellbeing program enables Aboriginal participants to become self-directed persons both independently and as members of the community,’ Karen said.

‘An important element of this course is building people’s capacity at a grass roots level. The ladies of Galiwin’ku through their discussions, identified and developed strategies, support and personnel that are required in the community to bring about the desired changes in education, health, and safe community outcomes.’

Karen engaged a community elder to talk about traditional women’s business so the ladies could pair their newly acquired knowledge with Yolngu knowledge.

Kaitlin Gemiyawuy, aged 19, said her favourite part of the course was young mothers learning about respect and culture.

‘The course helped me more to understand how to get work now I know what I am interested in. I feel happy and comfortable and strong and excited,’ Kaitlin said.

Beulah Mewura, aged 23, is one of the IPS staff and a participant in the course.

‘I feel proud because it was my first time doing work with other young women and we didn’t give up,’ Beulah said.

‘We are not feeling shame anymore, we’re proud of ourselves. We’re showing examples to other young mothers from other Aboriginal communities’.

This is the first time in Galiwin’ku that a large group of young mothers have completed a higher education course. These young women are an inspiration for all young mothers in Galiwin’ku and other Aboriginal communities.

They are now set on the path to becoming strong leaders of their community and Yalu is working towards offering more adult education to young parents in Galiwin’ku.

Find out more

The Australian Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy funds Indigenous Parenting Services through Yalu Marŋgithinyaraw.

Yalu Marnggithinyaraw is a Yolngu organisation that employs local people to run community development programs such as the Young Mother’s Course.