Garma Forum - Learning from the past to create new futures 

Photo courtesy YYF/Mark Rogers

Traditional dancers and the ancient sound of the yidaki (didgeridoo) welcomed nearly 1000 visitors from across Australia and overseas to the 8th annual Garma Festival.

The five day festival took place at Gulkula, 40 kilometres from Nhulunbuy in North East Arnhem Land from 4 to 8 August. This year the ‘key forum’ focussed on Indigenous Education and Training. Co-ordinated by the School of Social and Policy Research, dozens of workshops, presentations, panel discussions and learning exchanges took place over three days. Chair for the Forum was Phillip Adams, well known presenter of ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live program.

A cultural induction from directors of the Yothu Yindi Foundation (YYF) prefaced the opening, followed by a welcome from Chairman of YYF, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, and Professor Helen Garnett, Vice-Chancellor of Charles Darwin University.

Federal Opposition leader Kim Beazley introduced the opening day plenary session declaring ‘the starting point for Indigenous education has to be addressing 3rd world issues in a first world country’. He said there must be a more practical and realistic approach to education for Indigenous people that better reflected their needs and aspirations.

Government policies he said had so far ‘failed to genuinely engage with Indigenous groups’ and committed a future Federal Labor Government to turning this situation around within the first two terms of government.

CDU Vice-Chancellor Helen Garnett maintained the need for all children to have access and equity in educational opportunities, and the need for all stakeholders involved in the delivery of these services to work together to deliver real results.

This year’s forum focused on past and present education policy and practice and examined ways to build and adapt non-Indigenous and Indigenous capacities to learn together, as well as paying special attention to work-readiness and on-the-job training programs.