In the Top End, we have been quietly piloting homeland operations to test feasibility. There are over 500 communities of less than 200 people in the Northern Territory. Many have poor access to health, education and basic services. People are living on their traditional lands. For many, this their cultural responsibility. The alternative is often living in overcrowded towns where social issues and unemployment are rife, and they are on country that is not their own. However, being able to live on a homeland is hard and expensive with limited access to basic services and opportunities.
In the Top End of Australia, Bininj families have been leading change for their children for five years.
431 First Nations people engaged with Children's Ground in Kakadu West Arnhem
37 people employed in the remote outstation of Marlkawo in 2019, where before there were no other employment opportunities
Children’s Ground has been working in the region to assess a smaller version of the Children’s Ground Approach and its viability for homelands.
Top End operations expanded into Darwin in early 2020. Small-scale delivery began in two Town Camps. This soft entry is a part of our planning phase of engagement and will move towards delivering the full Children’s Ground Approach over time.
“We want Children’s Ground to come for our children. We need Children’s Ground. Children’s Ground listens to all of us. They spend time with each family. They know that we all want similar things for our children and families. This is how it should be. This is what we need.” – Knuckey Lagoon Community Members
After three years working together in Kakadu, our co-Directors and leaders requested support to return to their homelands in West Arnhem Land in 2018.
Marlkawo is extremely remote. It is a 12-hour drive from Darwin and lacks basic services. Shops, health care and early childhood services are a three-hour drive away. Accessibility is limited to the Dry Season as the roads wash out during the Rainy Season.
Despite these challenges, Marlkawo is a place of incredible cultural life. We know that health, learning and employment outcomes are better when families live on their own lands. Under the leadership of Bininj families, we started operations in Marlkawo in 2018.
In the Dry Season learning is delivered six days per week with an intentional intensity. This is to address the limited amount of time in which Marlkawo is accessible. 100% of learning takes place on Country. Each day begins with a physical activity, such as a race on the airstrip. Morning sessions focus on Western learning, such as literacy and numeracy. Afternoons are comprised of cultural learning and First Language. In every form of learning, Aboriginal and Western-trained educators work together.
Karridjarrkre manborlh mankudji: Walking Together on One path
“Bininj history, Bininj knowledge, Bininj culture, Bininj law… it is important for our wurdurd (children) to learn the Balanda (non-Aboriginal) and the Bininj way”
– Roxanne Naborlhborlh, Community leader