The Eyes that Silently Watch Us
People give more during tough times. This was proven to me again with our exceptionally successful tax time appeal in June. Many thanks to the extremely generous community who helped us fund the extra resources needed to support our students with their education this year. Yes, we have made the decision to postpone our fundraising dinners for 2020, but we’re going to bring you more snippets and videos through to the end of the year about what our students, partner schools, and the greater Yalari family are up to.
At Yalari we began Term 3 confidently believing all students would be returning to school. That confidence was shortlived with the changes in Victoria happening during the first week of term. New coronavirus cases in New South Wales created restrictions affecting our Northern Territory and Far North Queensland students who attend schools down south, along with further restrictions by the Queensland government affecting students crossing over the border. The constant uncertainty for parents and children regarding the decision to be at boarding school and then the decision regarding if and when to bring students back home was both tiring and testing.
‘Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.’ – W.E.B. DuBois
More than ever, this year has brought home to me the importance of our behavior, our reactions, and our dogged resilience ……. and being aware of the eyes that silently watch us.
They are the green eyes of an 11-year-old Yawuru Jabirr Jabirr girl who has traveled from the Kimberley to the very south of Western Australia to start at a new school thousands of kilometers from home. Everything she learned at the Yalari Orientation Camp in January needs to be adjusted. Is she going back home to study online? Will her new school stay open for the term? Will she go fishing with her father for weeks on end? Will she fall behind in her schoolwork? Will the friends she made in Term 1 still be her friends in term 3 when she returns to school four months later? She looks to the teachers, Yalari staff, her parents, and older sisters and brothers for security, answers, and comfort.
Then there are the darkest brown eyes of an 18-year-old Yolngu young woman in the final year of her secondary education. Year 12! She has made it ………. well nearly. With her younger sister, she left school in Brisbane suddenly before Term 1 ended, to return to her home in Arnhem Land before the state borders closed to outsiders and communities began to isolate themselves. Schooling for Term 2 was online at home. There were internet connection challenges, winter hunting, big packages in the mail from school, family and community sorry business ……… and her eyes stared hopefully at the large screen in the local state school, looking at the adults who were trying to support her and her family through this time. Do any of them have the answers for her? Will she have a school formal? Will she catch up academically when she returns to school in Term 3? What grades will she graduate with? What will she do next year?
Our main goal, and our only choice, was to support the parents, students and schools through the next stage of uncertainty, with calm, compassion and considered flexibility.
One of the positives that I’ve noticed, and especially for me, is that adults have ‘caught-up’ with the way our students communicate online and on social media, therefore improving the support for our students. We’ve had tutoring and mentoring support online, Yalari student Instagram competitions, Teams and Zoom video calls, and thousands of messages back and forth using any means we can. Keeping our students engaged with Yalari, their schools and their education was, and is, our highest priority, regardless of whether they are on an island in the Torres Straits, sitting on the back porch of a house in Darwin, in front of their laptop in Wee Waa, rugged up in front of a loungeroom fi re in Bairnsdale, or sitting in their classroom at school.
Due to our mid-year camps being postponed this year, we have completed our 2021 interviews months ahead of schedule. Thank you to our alumni in Darwin; Joline Bouwer, Grace Haslett and Adan Taat who helped out with our interviews in the Territory at short notice. They were insightful and aware, and honestly who better for the job than those who have walked in the shoes of these young hopefuls not so long ago. And more thanks to Gillian Johnson, WA Yalari Regional Advisory Council Chair and another alumni Della Bedford for doing the Kimberley and Port Hedland interviews so capably and graciously.
Pending successful school interviews, it looks like we are heading for another big year offering 46 new scholarship places in 2021. As winter fades and spring brings us back to life, our students have travelled home for their end of third term school holidays; many crossing state borders again, which brings with it the complexities of return travel across borders for the start of Term 4. Thank you to the school staff who have gone above and beyond this year with your teaching and care of our students. We notice you and are incredibly grateful.
Again, thank you to the Yalari community for continuing to be there for our students. It really does take a whole community to educate a child and we are incredibly grateful.
By Llew Mullins – Managing Director
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Yalari respects our Elders, past and present, and acknowledges that our office is on Kombumerri country within the lands of the Yugambeh language group