Trent, Jasmine and Alice join Geraldine Stewart and students for the bus run to Yipirinya School in Alice Springs. They observe the children learning about their tradition, culture and languages in an environment that fosters well-being and respect. For Jasmine, a mother of four, this experience is a revelation and forces her to question her misplaced views and how she is raising her own children.
"I’ve worked in town, on stations, mainly with kids. Ran the gap youth centre for a while, so been around, but always looking after kids."Geraldine Stewart, Yipirinya School HIPPY (Home Interaction Program) Coordinator, Alice Springs, NT
Geraldine Stewart works at Yipirinya School, specialising in home-based parenting and early childhood enrichment programs. Geraldine is the eldest of seven children. All her life she has looked after children - working in child and family support centres, welfare centres, homes for children or looking after extended family.
- Yipirinya School is located in Alice Springs and was established in 1978 by the local Indigenous people.
- Alice Springs lies in the geographic ‘Red Centre’ of the Australian continent.
- With a population 29,000, it is the third-largest town in the Northern Territory.
- The Arrernte People were the first inhabitants of the Alice Springs region.
- The traditional owners of the land call the region Mparntwe.
With just a handful of students coming from families that own cars, the bus is crucial.
All: “Good morning, hi.”
Trent: “Without the bus they probably wouldn’t even get to school would they?”
Geraldine: “Probably won’t even come to school.”
It’s not just the school bus that makes Yipirinya school different. The pupils here learn all the usual subjects but also take classes in Indigenous language and culture.
Principal: “We have three special visitors who have come today. We have Alice, Jasmine and Trent. Will you say hi? But we are going to start the assembly with our drummers, with Peter.”
As the children head off to class, Jasmine and the others have their own lesson to attend with the school Principal.
Principal: “The map shows you all the Aboriginal languages originally in Australia. They say today perhaps there are 25 being actively spoken all the time.”
Geraldine: “In the ’60s and ’70s we couldn’t even speak Arrernte in the playground at recess time. The teacher on duty would say “stop jabbering away” or something. In the Arrernte area there’s central, eastern, western and southern.”
For Jasmine the sheer number of Indigenous languages is too much to take in.
Jasmine: “I’m overwhelmed with how many are there. This is crazy…”
Principal: “But the sad part is so many of them have died out. They haven’t got their speakers and they’re trying to revive them.”
Of the 20 or so Aboriginal languages still widely spoken in Australia, Yipirinya School teaches four of them. And, as Jasmine soon discovers, they’re not easy to master.
She started this journey with the belief that Aboriginal children are given too much but a day back at school with grateful kids from poor homes has Jasmine questioning herself as a mother.
Jasmine: “I think the kids appreciate it a lot more than what say my children do because my children have everything given to them. I guess we want to give our kids what we couldn’t, and I think I’ve learned that my kids have too much. So when I go home, stuff is going to be taken away so they can appreciate it more.”
Resources and related content
NITV Documentary Talking Language promo.
Let’s talk Australian voices from Reconciliation Australia.
Find out more about the Aboriginal Language map shown in the episode.