Message from the CEO|YYF1234

31 July 2020

Message from the CEO


Nhemarri bukmak to all friends and family,

Today is the day Garma 2020 was scheduled to take place. The pandemic now prevents our community gathering from happening, but the safety of our communities is the reality we now live in.  For the first time in the 22-year history of the Festival, we don’t have the opportunity to celebrate with you, our friends and families from across the nation. While our lives  have been upended in all sorts of unexpected ways, we hope this newsletter provides you with a ray of sunshine and further positive tidings as we adapt to a new way of life.  

So, taking a positive step forward the Yothu Yindi Foundation has taken the opportunity to advance our other important work.  Our vision remains fixed on building a better future for the next generation. Much like Bruce Mangurra’s design for the Dhupuma College logo of the 70’s, which took inspiration from Ganbulapula’s search for honey as he looked up at the bees, we are still ‘Looking Up to The Future’, and as you’ll learn from reading on, we are within reach of realising our dream to rebuild an education hub in northeast Arnhem Land that truly honours the memory of Dhupuma in its heyday.  

What has been rewarding for our team is that we’ve been able to review the journey upon which our footprints have travelled.  The Yothu Yindi Foundation is undertaking a three-pronged approach to developing a future in line with our Yolngu community’s aspirations.  They are exciting and ground-breaking and a fundamental part of the future of the NE Arnhem region.  They fall under three categories:

  1. Garma
  2. Education
  3. Advocacy

Read on for more detail about how we fulfil our community obligations.   


Denise Bowden

Eunice sharing the Gulkula story with us

A word from our Ambassador Jack Thompson


While these times are set to try us, I am reminded that only twelve months ago I was in a place of special significance to me.  

This special place is Gulkula, the site upon which 2,700 people from across our great nation would today have gathered to be a part of the Yolngu celebration, the annual Garma Festival.  

I am proud that Gulkula is also my Yolngu name.

Twelve months ago we had no idea that our future held a pandemic that would deeply affect our entire world & prevent us holding the event this year. 

I believe we should take this opportunity to remind ourselves of the joy of communication & celebration of Indigenous culture….that is Garma.

We should remember & hold dear to us much that we have achieved at Garma.   

We brought our nation together in many colours of the rainbow.

We drew the city to the bush & the bush was able to explain how different life can be as Indigenous Australians.

We forged deeper respect for Indigenous culture, arts, songlines and philosophy.

We helped to create an economy for NE Arnhem Land-based on a profound respect for Indigenous knowledge and managed by the Indigenous community itself.

We delighted in and encouraged tomorrows leaders through the youth of today.

We promoted social equity and called for reform and change.

We "looked out" for each other and continue to do so today.

We brought the voice of Indigenous Australia to the fore and echoed in support.


We worked together to build a better future for us all.

I appeal to you to continue to promote the Garma message.

I believe it is more important than ever, in this time of crisis, that we look forward to our mutual future…. with a positive mindset, aware of our achievements.

With my respects


Jack Thompson AM
Garma Festival Ambassador

Garma 2019

If we could point you to some of the more memorable Garma moments, we’d recommend the following to remind you of the journey along the way:

2019 Report

Garma image gallery

CEO’s Key Forum speech

Djawa Yunupingu Directors speech

Although we can’t host you onsite this year, we sincerely hope that we see you in 2021.  Here are the planned dates  - Friday 30 July – Monday 2 August 2021.

We send all our southern families and friends our warmest wishes;  stay positive and draw your loved ones closer in these uncertain times. 

Ground breaking djama

This period of time has enabled us to progress our work with Barker College and Studio Schools Australia to develop a first-class education hub in northeast Arnhem Land, fashioned on the success of Dhupuma College which flourished some 40 years ago. We’re currently working with our partners on an exciting new model of education that truly encompasses the Yolngu perspective, and draws our families and communities into its core. 

As we draw closer towards the registration of a new independent school at Gunyangara – part one of the broader education vision – we congratulate Barker College for last month recruiting Marina Wangurra as their Global Project Manager for East Arnhem. So, while our community may well have lost a very popular local resident, Marina is still firmly tapped into the Arnhem Land pulse as a fundamental champion for Barker College’s education work in the region.   Congratulations to Marina, her position fully retains the link to our regional homelands and outstations.

Barker College already has the runs on the board when it comes to empowering Indigenous communities to take control of education delivery, and their leadership is highly regarded in New South Wales where they’ve opened campuses and introduced new models of delivering education in partnership with families and local communities. 

The local leadership of Djapirri Mununggirritj, Murphy Yunupingu, Barayuwa Mununggurr and Yananymul Mununggurr must be acknowledged as being instrumental in the progress and success of this long-held vision.  We thank you for your direction.

Left to right Marina Wangurra, Member for Nhulunbuy Mark Yinya Guyula, Murphy Yunupingu, Peter Solly, Bambapuy Ganambarr, Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr and Elena Wangurra.

Learned voices of former Dhupuma students, July 2020

"I wanted to be a motor mechanic, work in the workshops.  (But….) I didn’t take the motor mechanic position.  They did have a position to work and clean aeroplanes to refuel for reloading, so I started working.  After leaving school…. and I was ready for work….. there was a gap from leaving high school, leaving year 12 – a gap - for apprenticeship for further studies where we could learn physically, feeling by hands, touching, a practical work – what it’s all about. Working, I became really good at that practical djama (work) which was like a gap between leaving school and what you really need to do later when you grow up.  That’s the focus.  …..In those days there was no outside interference into my education.  We never had no social media, we studied learning English and what we wanted to be.  Concentrate on who you want to be.  There is a long journey after leaving school instead of dropping out. But we want to support you, I want to support you.  "
Mark Yingiya Guyula, current Member for Nhulunbuy

"It made me stronger to talk, to communicate with people and argue.  Arguing about standing up and talking in the classroom or being a speech person.  Helping others that were shy.  We learnt a lot of new things like being with people that were famous, and people that we met that were good speakers.  It was a new opening for education to be able to do the things that I couldn’t do before, like standing up and talking.   Speaking with people that were up here at the top to meet them and what we wanted for education.  It was a learning point for me as Yolngu from growing up in the bush so it gave me a lot of insight of planning ahead for my grandchildren because we had nothing in the house, just a tin roof.  It made me look to the future of planning and what I wanted to do.  I said to myself I am going to study hard and get a good job for the future.  I found a good job.  I teach now and I work with the young children at Yirrkala school and it (Dhupuma) made me stronger really to argue about Yolngu education and what needs to be done."
Bambapuy Ganambarr

"I was a student going to Dhupuma boarding school back in the 70’s.  For a Yolngu child growing up in a Yolngu community, it was an amazing experience learning the Yolngu side of our environment and all those other things that a Yolngu child must learn before going to the western side of education.  For a Yolngu child, every child must be educated - Yolngu first and that’s how I learnt.  The experience of learning Yolngu first and ngapaki later on.  It helps you to unpack that problem solving, the western side.  Going to Dhupuma College has really opened my eyes in the balanda world and how I went through learning in the ngapaki world speaking in my own language to English.  But through those steps I think it took me higher, cause at the time it was all Yolngu students from east Arnhem, Galiwinku Milingimbi, Maningrida, Yirrkala, and the cohort of students that were there spoke their own language and we learnt and bounced off each other.  During that time also the students we knew started learning form each other and how we were connected through the gurrutu system and that experience to us to where we are now. " 
Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr


Welcoming our new Regional Coordinator

In March we welcomed Elena Wangurra into the organisation as YYF’s first ever Regional Co-ordinator for NE Arnhem Land.  Elena Wangurra is a Warramiri – Triestina woman from North-East Arnhem Land  with a background in event and logistical management, Elena has worked as the Corporate/VIP Coordinator over the last few years of our Garma festival as well as national campaigns such as the Constitutional Recognition dialogues. 

Elena’s primary role will support all of YYF’s projects on the ground, but her first endeavour is to establish the Yothu Yindi Foundation into our new NE Arnhem Land office now located at 9 Arnhem Road. 

The first-ever Yothu Yindi Foundation office based in Nhulunbuy

With our new Regional Coordinator comes a new office.  Last month we were delighted to move into our new Yothu Yindi Foundation office  at 9 Arnhem Road.  Our new home will be a valuable asset to the organisation in the years ahead as the education hub vision becomes reality.  It is important to have this increased presence on-the-ground in the form of a local base for YYF, our partners and key stakeholders.

Advocating for our community

Part of our goals are to advocate for the community, and how government policy development can affect our very remote regions.  We share the three following pieces of work that does impact the health and wellbeing of our community.  Recent advocacy work has included:

Productivity Commission Horizontal Fiscal Equalisation

Productivity Commission Indigenous Evaluation Strategy

Parliamentary Inquiry into Food pricing and food security in remote Indigenous communities

Coming Soon – Friends of Garma Membership 

Stay tuned for some exciting news as we prepare to unveil our new Friends of Garma membership program to keep you connected throughout the year, wherever you may be. 

Watch this space!

How you can support our work

YYF cannot do its important work without the support of our generous sponsors and donors. 

We invite you to be a part of our efforts to ensure that Yolngu and other Indigenous Australians have the same level of wellbeing and life opportunities as non-Indigenous Australians.

All donations over $2 are tax deductible and every donation however large or small makes an impact.

Donate now


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