The grandson of land rights champion Galarrwuy Yunupingu says young Aboriginal kids from remote communities are being forced to choose between a decent education and their culture.
Michael Gadingura Yunupingu grew up in Adelaide without a traditional Yolngu upbringing, but had the schooling many children from remote Arnhem Land communities are denied.
“We all, Balanda [white people] and Yolngu have to work together to figure out a way in which kids can carry on our culture yet gain as much education as possible,” he told the Garma Festival.
The 19-year-old says he’s seen countless Indigenous youngsters from remote communities dropping out of boarding schools because they can’t handle the transition to city life.
“Kids aren’t getting the opportunities therefore (they) resort to this constant lifestyle of drugs and alcohol,” he said.
He urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, listening in the crowd, to give the next generation of indigenous leaders the support they deserve to realise their potential.
“These kids are our future. This country’s future,” Mr Yunupingu said.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar outlined the reluctance of many families in sending their children to boarding school, breaking a connection to country and community.
She called for culturally competent school environments, incorporating western and indigenous knowledge, to enable students to flourish.
“(And) there needs to be sufficient opportunities in a child’s own community to encourage them to come back and give back to their community when they finish their studies,” Ms Oscar said.