• Traditional Owners, community leaders and families work together to build relationships that will assist future employment pathways for Indigenous communities. (NITV News)
Bond University’s Yarning Up program to Mer and Thursday Islands has enabled urban dwellers a rare opportunity to experience everyday life in some of Australia’s most remote Indigenous communities.
By
Laura Morelli

29 Aug 2017 - 12:20 PM  UPDATED 29 Aug 2017 - 2:49 PM

Business people and educational leaders have joined forces to help close the gap in some of Australia’s most remote Indigenous communities as part of Bond University’s 2017 Yarning Up project.

The group spent five days talking to Traditional Owners, Elders, community leaders and families, building connections and relationships that will assist future employment pathways based on the real needs of Indigenous communities.

Bond University's Indigenous Support Officer, Narelle Urquhart attended the Yarning Up trip in the Torres Strait to 'better understand first-hand' the challenges locals face. She says their aim is to build relationships and through those relationships, develop healthy sustainable solutions.

"It brings a lot of choices, it brings direction, it brings vision. Education changes the game.”

"We’ve not come here to be ‘saviours,’ we’re here to be socially responsible – especially as educators – and play our part in what needs to be done," she said.

"Education is one of the keys that unlocks poverty. There’s no disputing that. I know even with my own kids, an education is a platform that they can launch off."

Ms Urquhart says trips like these open up a whole new world of opportunities.

"It brings a lot of choices, it brings direction, it brings vision. Education changes the game.”

Suncorp’s Executive Manager of Talent, Tanya Johnson participated in the Yarning Up project this year and says immersion opportunities are vital in making positive changes.

“During our five-day visit, the people of Mer and Thursday Islands opened their schools, their homes and, most especially, their hearts to us,” she explained.

“We are currently working on Suncorp’s Reconciliation Action Plan and you can’t do that sitting in an office in Brisbane. Yarning Up gave us the opportunity to spend time in the community and talk one on-one with people to learn first-hand what it is like to live in a remote community.”

"Yarning Up gave us the opportunity to spend time in the community and talk one on-one with people to learn first-hand what it is like to live in a remote community.”

Winner of the 2016 Queensland Premier’s Reconciliation Award, Bond University’s Yarning Up program is now in its fourth year of taking small, high powered delegations to Lockhart River and the Torres Strait Islands in far north Queensland.

To date, more than 40 school principals, corporate achievers and Indigenous leaders have undertaken the annual trip, with a number of participants returning a second time.

Yarning Up organiser and Bond University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor, Pathways and Partnerships, Catherine O’Sullivan says what was once just a dialogue between women from remote and central communities about challenges their children face – has now become Yarning Up – an established program.

“This initial education focus achieved some powerful outcomes in terms of new school scholarships being introduced for Indigenous children and new systems designed to ease their transition from remote primary schools to larger mainland boarding campuses,” she said.

“Over the past two years, Yarning Up has evolved to encompass a mix of male and female participants with increased involvement from the corporate sector which has extended the focus to the full community-education-employment pathway.

As a result of previous Yarning Up visits, locals have seen positive outcomes such as the establishment of two locally owned and run small businesses in Lockhart River supported by ISS Facility Services and hope to see more positive developments in the future.

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