Perhaps the greatest indicator of this is the substantial increase in school attendance. Many of our students have gone from attending very few days a term at their previous schools, to joining us almost every day at Dhupuma. This is a great sign that the students are feeling comfortable and happy in their new school environment. Some djamarrkuli (children) are so keen they are waiting at the school gate every morning when I arrive at 7am. The students spent Term 2 settling into the routine we have established. On arrival, they get changed into their uniform, have some bacon and eggs if they haven’t eaten already, then head to the basketball court to shoot hoops before school starts. The morning session begins with our school prayer in Yolŋu Matha (language) and English. Students are then placed into small groups for literacy activities. Initially we focused on word recognition (sight words), and we now have literacy rotations. Some students are learning initial sounds, others are blending words together, some are reading books from our library. We use lots of games to learn sight words. Anyone who visits Dhupuma Barker will find it very difficult to beat the djamarrkuli at a game of ‘Go Fish’ – they seem to have different rules in East Arnhem! The most pleasing part of our morning sessions has been the effort the students put in to learning to read and write in English and Yolŋu Matha. After our literacy sessions we focus on numeracy. This is taught as a whole class and it’s wonderful to see the older students supporting and guiding the younger ones. The djamarrkuli really enjoy hands on activities, so where possible we make our own resources to engage the students. We always finish with a game where the students take great pleasure in beating Mr
Tom! Yolŋu cultural education is the core of our daily life at Dhupuma Barker. The Yolŋu Assistant Teachers and
Cultural Advisors teach the djamarrkuli the Yolŋu way. There is a big emphasis on making sure the djamarrkuli know and understand who they are and where they belong. It is most important that students learn their Moiety, skin name, totems, homeland and clan group. Raypirri (discipline) is a big focus in and out of the classroom. Raypirri begins before you are born and relates to words and actions – no teasing, helping each other, no fighting, working together, respect everything and everyone around you. Raypirri is discussed daily in the classroom. We also regularly leave the classroom for on-Country activities at the beach or in the bush, including storytelling, care for
the environment, and students performing Buŋgul dances of significant animals.
We have been lucky to have many fantastic visitors to Dhupuma Barker in our first term. We’ve had nutritionists from Flinders University working with the students and discussing superfoods vs sometimes foods. Miss Bev from Apple has joined us several times to help the djamarrkuli make ebooks, and we have had lessons on crocodile safety and safe camping. We also welcomed Ben Roarty, former Melbourne Storm player, who spent time with all the
children from Gunyaŋara. The djamarrkuli love sport and we try to get out once a day for a whole school game. Basketball, AFL and tag are the highlights and always bring a smile to the students’ faces. I am still trying to convince them to follow the Penrith Panthers or Sydney Swans! Dhupuma Barker is one of the highlights of my teaching career to date. I am extremely proud of the behaviour, focus and engagement of the djamarrkuli.
My family and I have moved to Gunyaŋara, about 1km from the school. The whole community have made
me, my wife Jacqui, and our three children feel very welcome. We love driving down Yunupingu Drive as
the djamarrkuli scream “Mr Tom” and run over to the car to say hello. My youngest child now refers to me as “Mr Tom”. One of the Dhupuma students has spent time with my son, teaching him and playing the yidaki
(didgeridoo) with him. Just another great moment we get to experience.
We very much looked forward to Term 3 as we welcomed Lori Cross as the second classroom
teacher. Lori Cross has been a part of the East Arnhem community for close to 30 years. I am excited to work with Lori and wish her and her family all the best as she begins her Barker journey. Together we look forward to watching our students continue to grow as students and Yolŋu people.