School is Home, Home as School: Yolngu '˜On Country' and 'Through Country' Place-Based Education From Gäwa Homeland


  • Ben van Gelderen Charles Darwin University
  • Kathy Guthadjaka Charles Darwin University



homeland education, Yolngu bothways, Gawa, on-country, through country, pedagogy


In the review of rural, regional and remote education in Australia, Halsey briefly reflected on the old conundrum of how traditional Indigenous culture and 'western' knowledge (as represented in mainstream curriculum) might be integrated in remote schooling contexts. The recommendation supplied was for 'greater opportunity in the curriculum for learning about and valuing home and Homelands knowledge and life skills' (Halsey, 2018, p. 32). But what are 'homelands' and why were they viewed as so vital by the Indigenous Elders Halsey consulted? In fact, in north-east Arnhem Land, such a (seemingly) simple recommendation rests upon a long and complex history of Indigenous negotiation with balanda (white) educational policies and practices. At the Warramiri Yolŋu homeland of Gäwa, a philosophy of education has developed to encompass a profound place-based prioritisation. Community research from Gäwa will be outlined to elucidate this localised Indigenous 'on country' and 'through country' pedagogy, and a practical demonstration of the philosophy in terms of the incorporation of a Warramiri 'turning' seasonal-cycle curriculum will also be briefly discussed.

Author Biography

Ben van Gelderen, Charles Darwin University

Ben van Gelderen is a Lecturer in Education; Co-ordinator of the Growing Our Own project. This innovative program is a joint partnership between CDU and the Catholic Education Office, Northern Territory, involving the delivery of the Bachelor of Education in five remote Indigenous communities.
Ben has worked as an English teacher, Chaplain, Teacher/Linguist, EAL/D consultant and Curriculum Advisor in Independent and Catholic schools across NSW and NT. His Master of Education project was collaborative and transdisciplinary research with the Indigenous Gäwa community on Elcho Island to help provide digital resources for the intergenerational transmission of language and cultural knowledge. He is a current PhD student.



23-10-2019 — Updated on 23-10-2019


How to Cite

van Gelderen, B., & Guthadjaka, K. (2019). School is Home, Home as School: Yolngu ’˜On Country’ and ’Through Country’ Place-Based Education From Gäwa Homeland. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 29(3), 56–75.