Research grant to support Indigenous early education  

[by Leanne Miles]

Dr Anne Lowell and Dr Elaine Läwurrpa Maypilama are leading a project to support Yolŋu children and families to achieve strong learning in two systems. Image: supplied

A project led by Charles Darwin University that aims to build on the strong cultural foundation of young Indigenous children as they move into early education has received an Australian Government Indigenous Research Exchange grant of almost $200,000.

The project “Understanding pathways to support Yolŋu children and families to achieve strong learning in two systems” is a collaboration between Indigenous communities, and educational and research partners.

Associate Professor at CDU’s Northern Institute Elaine Läwurrpa Maypilama said the aim of the project was for Yolŋu (North-Eastern Arnhem Aboriginal) families, educators and researchers to work together to address community priorities.

“Balanda (non-Aboriginal people), need to recognise that there is a Yolŋu education pathway,” she said. “Yolŋu children have a strong cultural foundation when they move into early childhood programs. And Yolŋu family want to understand the Balanda education systems that are coming into our community.”

She said that because it was a foreign system, some children could feel lost and families found it hard to support their children.

“That makes it hard for Yolŋu children to learn,” Dr Maypilama said. “But we want to connect the family and the school to create a good foundation, then I think the children will lead up to that higher education. We will work together in this research to make their pathway stronger.”  

Principal Research Fellow  at the Northern Institute Associate Professor Anne Lowell said the project would build on extensive recent research, and consultations to facilitate more effective engagement between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people to identify sustainable systems and processes for knowledge exchange and application.

“This project will use a participatory action approach with cultural experts, elders, families, children, educators and researchers utilising successful methods built over many years of collaborative work between Yolŋu and non-Indigenous researchers in areas of education and health,” she said.

“Working together, the project aims to strengthen support for Yolŋu children to build on their strong cultural foundation as they move into early childhood programs and school.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP announced funding of around $2 million to 12 recipients from across the country, under the Indigenous Research Exchange initiative.

Minister Wyatt said the funding would provide for Indigenous-led projects that are a priority for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Funded through the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, the Indigenous Research Exchange was established to identify and fund research priorities for and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations.

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