It’s a program that takes the classroom onto the land and links traditional indigenous knowledge with the school curriculum.
Learning on Country was first trialled by five Indigenous communities in Arnhem Land, including Maningrida, Yirrkala and Groote Eylandt, to give Aboriginal students more opportunities to stay in school and find pathways to work in land management.
The program was also designed to recognise the value of Indigenous knowledge in mainstream education and give students subject credits towards graduation or potentiialy towards a vocational qualification in conservation and land management.
Learning on Country also offered Aboriginal elders, our bush professors, and rangers the chance to work with teachers and share their valuable knowledge of the land with the younger generation.
The pilot was so successful, the Federal Government funded its expansion to other communities and in 2018 Senator Nigel Scullion handed funding and responsibility of the program to the Northern Land Council.
The program is managed through a vital partnership between ranger groups and local schools, and with support from the land council, the Jawoyn Rangers have employed coordinator Crystal Burgher to work with Wugularr (Beswick) and Barunga schools to make the program available on Jawoyn country.
Since the program kicked off in October, students from both schools have participated in six field trips where they have learned about water monitoring, setting camera traps and making bait to lure animals at freshwater springs.
The rangers have also taken the students to rock art sites and taught them how to record rock art and conduct important maintenance to protect the sites.
The program is already off to a good start with reports of increased school attendance and new enrolments with students noticeably enthusiastic about working with the rangers and seeing the outdoors, their country, as one big classroom.