Garma festival findings offer blueprint for education reform 


A landmark report on Indigenous education and training will be launched by Education Minister Paul Henderson at Parliament House on December 13.

The report, prepared by the School for Social and Policy Research at Charles Darwin University, draws on ideas discussed at this year’s Garma Festival forum in August.

The Garma Key Forum Report 2006 highlights ways to reform a system in crisis.

Among the many influential speakers were Raymattja Marika, a noted Yolngu educator recently announced as the NT’s Australian of the Year nominee, Mitchell Hooke, chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia, Jeff McMullen, former 60 Minutes journalist now an advocate for Indigenous literacy, Dr Daniel Etya’ale from the World Health Organisation and Professor Fiona Stanley, Director, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.

Jeff McMullen called on Australians to confront what he called the country’s ‘greatest civil rights challenge’ – improving the educational standards of Indigenous communities.

A strong message from Yolngu speakers was the importance of living, learning and earning on clan estates, in defiance of new attacks on the idea of homelands, outstations and remote communities emerging from debate in national policy arenas.

A clear commitment to two-way learning and consistent supply of well-trained teachers were also identified as priority areas for action.

At the conclusion of the Key Forum, Yolngu leaders endorsed the 19 recommendations of a charter for urgent action to achieve social transformation and change.

Drawing from the charter, the Garma 2006 Key Forum report synthesises its key messages under five fields of action for policy consideration and uptake:

  • Early Childhood and Intergenerational Knowledge
  • A Systematic Approach to Formal Education
  • Teacher Education and Professional Development
  • Infrastructure and Resourcing
  • Investment, Employment and Training.

In her introduction to the report CDU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Helen Garnett, emphasises the importance of the forum, organised by CDU, in exploring such complicated and controversial issues.

‘We are committed to supporting Indigenous aspirations and education and training, and hope that this report makes a difference in this nationally important area,' Professor Garnett said.

‘Of the NT’s 63,000 Indigenous people, 54 per cent are younger than 25 and will comprise 45 per cent of the school age population by 2031.

‘But literacy and numeracy outcomes remain poor, the numbers graduating with a full secondary education are increasing but still countable by individual name, and employment opportunities remain limited.’

Charles Darwin University, in partnership with the Yothu Yindi Foundation, will again organise the Key Forum as part of the Garma Festival in 2007. Its focus will be on health and well-being.

An electronic version of the report will be available from the Garma website after the launch on 13 December: