About Us

Nyangatjatjara College is an Anangu College in Central Australia. We provide secondary education across three remote communities and primary education in one (Docker River). All of our students are Anangu and almost all speak Pitjantjatjara as their first language. We are the only secondary education provider in the Northern Territory south of Alice Springs.

We belong to the Association of Independent Schools of the Northern Territory (AISNT). Our aim is to have every child across our communities attending school and learning every day. We are passionate about working with Anangu to provide a great education for the young people in our region.

Nyangatjatjara College was established by Nyangatjatjara Aboriginal Corporation and opened on 21 July 1997. In the first five years of its life, the college grew from one building to multiple temporary buildings at four campuses based in the communities it serves. The Yulara campus is architecturally-designed site. Its bright colours and staggered rooflines meld the buildings with the environment and reflect the Central Australian landscape.

Painting story

The Centring Anangu Voices research project was commissioned by the Nyangatjatjara College board working with the three College communities of Imanpa, Mutitjulu and Docker River. The research was designed to better understand the aspirations of families and communities for their young people and how education might enable these possibilities.

The two main questions were:

What does a strong and knowledgeable young person look like, and
How can the College better enable these possibilities?

The interviews were conducted in Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara language and translated into English. Focus groups and a regional workshop were also held to reflect on the stories that were shared and develop the key themes and ideas further.

The report can be viewed here:

Osborne, S., Guenther, J., King, L., Lester, K., Ken, S., & Lester, R. (2018). Centring Anangu Voices: A research project exploring how Nyangatjatjara College might better strengthen Anangu aspirations through education. Ninti One Ltd, Alice Springs. Retrieved from http://www.nintione.com.au/resource/NR005_CentringAnanguVoices.pdf

A final part of the project was to bring together 15 senior community members and artists from across the three communities and after workshopping and present the findings of the research through a collaborative art piece. The piece is presented here. You can hover the mouse on sections of the painting and read the stories the artists and Directors shared as an explanation of the work.

The original canvas hangs in the Nyangatjatjara College Yulara campus office.

Middle section left Top-left (snake eighth, 10.30 to 12) Top central channel Top left eighth Central right Bottom right Bottom left Top-left (orange and green wedge) Central lower channel Central Bottom left middle Bottom left bottom

Forward together: a pedagogy of both-ways learning and families at the centre.

This section marks out a vision for both-ways pedagogy and family/community engagement at Nyangatjatjara College. In traditional Anangu society, education happened every day. Our classroom was outside, and the teachers were grandparents, uncles and aunties and older siblings. Today, education needs to be a partnership between Piranpa teachers, families and young people.

Families are central to success for young people in education. Teachers need to work with families and community to engage young people. You cannot go around the families and community or act in isolation of them for our young people to be confident in education and strong in ‘both worlds’ – Anangu and Piranpa social and community contexts. We need to walk together and work together. If the family and community travels together with the College, we bring the children on the journey. Without the involvement and encouragement of family and community, the children are afraid, and they wander off the education journey.

Families and communities need to work with the College and the staff to open spaces to work back and across that two worlds. Anangu educators need to be learning more and more about how schools work and taking a stronger lead in school-based education. Piranpa teachers need to learn how to move back and across these spaces, working towards an approach that strengthens our young people to be confident and engaged in both ways education. This is the best way we can ensure our young people stay on the journey and move from school to work which is important to us. 

This section shows Wati Liru (the brown snake man) in green. Liru is a venomous snake and he came from the west through the Petermann Ranges (Docker River region). In the creation time (Tjukurpa) Wati Liru travelled close by Pirurpa Kaalarinytja (Butler’s Dome) on his journey, then made his way to Uluru.

At the top, there are circles which represent waterholes and other significant (sacred: miilmiilpa) sites that mark the journey of Wati Liru. Wati Liru’s journey, along with the Mala Tjukurpa and the dingoes (Kurpanynga) in pursuit connect Docker River community to the communities of Mutitjulu and Imanpa as the stories come together at Uluru.

Minyma Kuniya (Woma Python woman) came up from a long way east, the other side of Erldunda (Waltantanya) coming towards Uluru with her eggs strung around her neck. Minyma Kuniya’s nephew had been killed by a group of young Liru. Minyma Kuniya came towards Wati Liru in a step from a women’s dance with the wana (digging stick) held with two hands above her head, and hit the man as she danced, bringing the wana down with full force. An initial blow wounded Wati Liru but she struck him again in a rage and he died. The site of the conflict between Wati Liru and Minyma Kuniya can be seen in the depressions of Mutitjulu waterhole. The marks on the rock show where the battle was played out, where Wati Liru lay wounded and died.  

Three Es: Employment, Education, Enterprise.

In the 1990s, Yami Lester, a Yankunytjatjara leader and visionary helped found the College within a broader vision of the three Es: Education, employment and enterprise. These elements are seen marking a pathway that links to Uluru, the central location of the painting.

The three circles also represent the three communities connecting through education at the College.

There are two women with their implements, the wana (digging stick) and piti (dish). They have travelled from a distant place in search of food. They finally arrived in a place where there are kampararpa (bush tomatoes) and have made their camp here because there is food and water nearby. The variegated background colours represent a journey through different landscapes and Country: tali (sandhill country), tjanpi (spinifex country), nyaru (patch burnt areas) and so on.

Pantunya (Lake Amadeus) salt lakes

Minyma Kuniya was carrying the eggs around her head and brought them with her on her journey. She passes just north of Waltantanya (Erldunda) and comes towards Uluru, approaching from the east. At Atila (Mt Conner) you can see where Minyma Kuniya regathered her eggs, as well as at Amiriri where her laying of another clutch of eggs can be seen in the landscape of deep waterholes. Minyma Kuniya is a vital point of connection for the Imanpa communities to the east as the Tjukurpa unites them at Uluru.

Colours in the background show the sandhills, trees, grasses and nyaru (patch-burnt clearings). The Seven Sisters (Kungkarangkalpa) are there, showing how we are connected Australia-wide. This story moves through our Country, with eight sisters coming this way from the north-east. Walara Range is where the eighth sister died, leaving seven sisters to continue, with one man, Wati Nyiru following in pursuit. The story is found in Cairns, in the Blue Mountains, at Cave Hill to the south of Uluru, and in places everywhere; it connects the nation. In the same way, Nyangatjatjara College is connected across Australia through our education journey through things like curriculum and training opportunities. Our young people will move in and out of spaces across Australia and come back as part of their education journey.

In this section, there is a man with men’s implements, spear-thrower (miru), club (tjutinypa), boomerang (kali) and spear (kulata). In our way of teaching, Anangu men teach the young men about the things they need to know to be strong (kunpu) and knowledgeable (ninti).

Senior women are taking children out on Country learning about the foods that people ate traditionally and we still eat today. This classroom of senior women teaching the children is a safe and protected space. There is yuu (a wind break) on either side of the fire and this keeps the kids together in a safe place out of the wind. There are openings on each side where the young people can go out and then return to the safe learning place, learning through family (walytjapiti), community and Country (ngura). In this part of the painting, they are learning about the various bush foods but are also looking beyond to the Seven Sisters Tjukurpa, a story that connects the whole of Australia.

The circles are about special sites. The woman has a digging stick (wana) and a dish (wira). People have travelled from separate areas, looking for food, then they see the honey ants are plentiful and they come together and sit down and dig. This is the Anangu way from long ago – as we move through the country looking for food and water, the places where food and water are plentiful bring us together where we can sit down, learn and share together.

In this part of the painting there are Anangu sitting around a fire in a shared space with Piranpa on Country. You can see the sandhills of the Mutitjulu area which surround the meeting space.  Some people are painted up to dance inma (ceremonial dance). The Uluru Kata Tjuta region, including Mutitjulu community has been a focal point for coming together to mark important events including cultural, political and historical celebrations. This is shown by the white dots on the figures.

Mutitjulu community started this way since Bill Harney and others came and a house was built here. Anangu gathered around the small housing area, living on the fringe of the built area and finding ways participate in the economy and community through interacting with the administration and with tourists in various ways such as gathering firewood for tourists visiting the campgrounds, making and selling punu (carved wooden artefacts), among many other things. It has been a shared history since the start of the Mutitjulu community and continues today. In 1985 Uluru Kata Tjuta was handed back to Anangu. Everyone was there – it was an enormous event with crowds of people stretching as far as the eye can see. This was the beginning of Mutitjulu’s history as a focus area for people from all walks of life and all over the world to recognise and celebrate our shared history. After signing the handback documents, the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park was signed over to the Commonwealth under a 99-year lease arrangement.

Since that time, tourism and work in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park has grown through joint management with the Commonwealth government as well as tourism and other work with the NT government who built a resort at Yulara which opened in 1984. In 2017, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was drafted at a meeting at Yulara and then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from all over Australia came to Mutitjulu to celebrate the work they had done together. This is the legacy of this important place – shared histories, learning, celebration and commemoration.

The Mala Tjukurpa (Rufous Hare Wallaby dreaming) starts near Yuendumu far to the north in the Tanami Desert. He came through this way, through to Uluru, then went south to Ulkiya which is in the sandhill country to south of Nyapari in the north-west region of South Australia. The Mala Tjukurpa marks a connection from north to south through our Tjukurpa.

In the creation time (Tjukuritja), the Mala men readied themselves for ceremonial business and the women had prepared the food. Soon after they started, the Wintalyka men (Mulga Seed men) around the Petermann Ranges to the west (the Docker River region) invited the Mala men to join them for inma (cultural ceremony). But their invitations were in vain as Mala refused to join them out west as their own ceremonies had begun and it was too late. Perhaps they were also suspicious of their intentions. The Wintalyka men were furious and sent a monstrous dingo creature they created (Kurpanynga) after the Mala men to destroy them. They attacked the Mala men and women but Luunpa (the Kingfisher woman) alerted the Mala men to Kurpany as it devoured a couple of the men. The Mala men and women fled south being trailed by Kurpany from the Uluru area all the way to Ulkiya, hundreds of kilometers to the south of Nyapari in the Mann Ranges. When Kurpany finally closed in on them, they changed into Wati Wilyaru and went deep under the ground, tunneling well below the surface, leaving an underground trail as he went, evading the dingoes and frustrating their plan to attack him. The marks of his journey can be seen today, even as far as places like Roxby Downs where the ground is upturned, and you can see the markers.

This section shows the three community campuses of Imanpa, Docker River and Mutitjulu, and towards the middle in the green is the central campus of Yulara where the boarding facilities and College administration are located. The community school sites are shared learning spaces where community can be involved. The kids come together, working with community and teachers. This happens in the classroom and in the community, the College can develop a focus on Learning on Country. Not so long ago, Anangu communities were made up of just us – Anangu; before Piranpa. Then our communities became shared spaces of black and white; Anangu and Piranpa – two ways of living and two known ways. But even very recently, our communities have changed again. As Anangu Elders and educators, we are responsible for teaching and caring for increasingly diverse Aboriginal identities. It isn’t as simple as black and white – there is black, white, and many shades of brown. But we are all family and share the community. For Anangu educators, the work has shifted to learning how to teach children representing diverse Aboriginal identities and experiences within a both worlds (Anangu and Piranpa) education frame. This means that our work as Anangu communities and Anangu education has shifted again, and we need to think about how we can teach and bring together more diverse students and their families. Yulara has a lot of people from different places including many Aboriginal people who are not Anangu, but in our communities, we have traditionally oriented Anangu, Piranpa (non-Aboriginal people) and increasingly, relations who share family members from other places who are not Anangu.

This is why education in our communities, through our College needs to open many different doors to opportunities we may not have thought of in the past.

Here are the foods the children are learning about:

Mangata (or wayanu) – Quandong (native peach)

Kampararpa (Kampurara in Yankunytjatjara)  – bush tomato/desert raisin

Kaliny-kalinypa or ultukunpa (yultukun [pa] in Yankunytjatjara) - Honey grevillea

Ili – bush figs

Maku – witchetty grubs

Tjala – honey ants

Uluru lies at the heart of the region and is the site where the creation beings from the Tjukurpa interact. The markers of these stories and ancestral beings are seen on the rock and in the surrounding environment. The three communities that make up the College community are connected through Tjukurpa and Uluru is a powerful visual site that draws us together from across the region.