Alison builds futures through education 

Yolngu woman and CDU student Alison Wunungmurra with some of her children

Even as a youngster Alison Wunungmurra believed that education was the key to success.

Now the mother of seven children she is working hard to improve education opportunities and services for young Indigenous Territorians.

Alison is about to begin the final year of her Bachelor of Education and Early Learning at the newly created Australian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Education (ACIKE) at Charles Darwin University.

Alison, who has already helped tackle child protection and local government issues, plans to use her hard-earned teaching qualification to help change policies in education to better prepare early childhood workers and teachers to work in remote areas.

Alison attributes her thirst for education to watching her mother work as a midwife at the local health clinic in Millingimbi and support from her family.

As a young girl her voracious appetite to learn was spotted by her teachers and she was encouraged to move to Darwin to complete her senior secondary schooling at Kormilda College before studying nursing like her mother.

Sadly it was the death of Alison’s beloved mum that sent her life into a tail spin, but the tragedy eventually led her to a new career path in education.

At the age of 22, Alison was living with her husband and two children in the community of Gapuwiyak in Arnhem Land, when she was asked to set up a playgroup for local children after a study revealed they were failing to thrive.

Initially not knowing what a playgroup was, Alison gathered the young mothers and their children together on the verandah of the local women’s centre and soon realised how she could help.

“I was talking with the mothers and looking deeper to see what support they needed,” Alison said. “I could see a bigger picture of giving kids the opportunity to learn and explore. There are a lot of obstacles but we have to make a safe environment for kids to take them over these challenges.”

That same insight into the value of education and determination to help has remained in Alison’s heart and mind as she battled obstacles of mainstream education as she continued her studies.

In the same way Alison’s family has helped her retain her identity as a Yolngu woman while she strives to learn, the dedicated teacher is also helping others unlock their future using the education key.

“At ACIKE I will have an identity that goes both ways because without that I will feel lost,” she said. “With ‘both ways’ learning, collaboration and exploring I can feel part of that learning.”

ACIKE is a joint initiative of CDU and the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. To find out more, visit: