This year, Dhupuma Barker students in northeast Arnhem Land will be returning in style for Term 1.
From Monday, their new school bus will carry them to class wrapped in images of Yolŋu culture.
The vehicle is a gift from the graduating students of Barker College's year 12 classes. Since 2019, the Yothu Yindi Foundation has collaborated with the college to get the independent school in Gunyangara up and running.
Tagalak woman and Yothu Yindi Foundation CEO Denise Bowden said the images on the bus are significant to the local community.
“The stars are from a grandmother Gulumbu Yunupiŋu’s artistic work which is significant to the site that the Garma Festival is held on,” Ms Bowden said.
“The kids are all descendants themselves so the school’s wrapped that bus up in a sense of cultural pride and community ownership.
“The shells are also cultural components of the Songlines out that way.”
The bus was purchased through fundraising efforts led by Barker College’s 2015, 2016 and 2019 Year 12 classes, with donations from the school and Barrenjoey Bank.
Traditionally, every Year 12 class donates a gift to the college when they graduate.
“It might be a lectern or a special piece of equipment with their leaving year emblazoned on it,” said Head of Barker College Phillip Heath.
“A few groups have said to me, ‘we don’t want to do that, we would actually rather provide some support for the Indigenous kids.'”
The bus was transported from Sydney to Arnhem Land in July last year.
“We talked to the Yothu Yindi Foundation about how (to) make it look and feel like it belongs, not just having a white bus bouncing about the community, and the idea of wrapping it came about,” Mr Heath said.
“Now it's something that not just the children in the Dhupuma Barker school, but all of the djamarrkuli (children) and their families can enjoy...”
Ms Bowden predicts that students will be excited to return to school this year.
“The teacher that has been driving around the township and everywhere it can possibly go has been getting a lot of toots, hollers, horns and lots of selfies.”
“I’m certainly going to have my eyes on the attendance… I reckon I’m going to try and jump on that bus myself!”