Garma Forum - Sharing stories - Successes and challenges 

Photo courtesy YYF/Mark Rogers

The first plenary session of the Garma Key Forum focused on the problems, paradoxes and solutions in the delivery of education and training.

Chaired by Phillip Adams, presenter of the Late Night Live program on ABC Radio National, the session included speakers from Indigenous organisations and community leaders as well as leading social justice advocates and representatives from the Ministry of Education in New Zealand and from the World Health Organisation.

Tobias Nganbe, co-principal of the Thamarrurr school at Wadeye told of the frustrations in his community regarding the ineffectiveness of many government policies, and the need for genuine consultation and more equity in the provision of educational services and resources for all children, no matter where they lived.

New Zealand Ministry of Education delegate, Te Kepa Stirling captivated the audience with his impassioned speech on the culture and achievements of Maori students and entertained the audience with Maori songs and music. His call for more listening and less talking by policy makers was illustrated by stories of some successes in NZ where government officials were obliged to spend up to three months living in a community so they could consult more closely before introducing new policies.

The afternoon workshop Putting Language and Culture Back into Schools drew an enthusiastic audience who heard about the successes and challenges of bilingual education programs including the development of Picture Dictionaries.

A grass roots program, the Picture Dictionary series was developed by the Institute of Aboriginal Development Press in Alice Springs. Josie Douglas, an Indigenous Research Fellow at Charles Darwin University explained that the books provide an important aid for teachers. ‘They provide a more relevant tool for the delivery of the curriculum in bush schools and are rich in cultural information as well as day-to-day life experiences.’