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During the April School Holidays, Wanta’s Yuendumu program made its annual trip to Parrtjima Arts Festival in Alice Springs. The festival showcased leading Indigenous artists from across the Central desert region and allowed the young people to immerse themselves in installations at Desert Park in Alice Springs. This year’s theme of Kulture drew on Wanta’s trip to enable young people to learn about different Indigenous cultures through the exploration of art and Indigenous teachings.

Throughout term 1 of 2021, Wanta has been delivering a “Wanta Get Creative” program teaching young people in Yuendumu skills in photography and filming. Youth have been capturing footage of bush trips, traditional cooking and hunting taught by Wanta staff and elders and sport programs. This program enables youth to learn digital skills, improve digital literacy and preserve cultural traditions utilising modern art forms. The culmination of this program was the completion of short video clips for social media use and young people got to witness just what their skills could lead to on a trip to Araluen Art Centre. As part of the Parrtjima Festival, Aboriginal Rules was played, a documentary of the Yuendumu Magpies Football team. Young people watched the film, recognising their relatives and witnessing the importance sport plays in their own community and how documenting this through art can enable others to have an insight into their lives and culture.

We then travelled to Ntaria to learn about the culture of the Western Arrernte people. Visiting the Ntaria Historic Precinct, on a tour lead by Wanta’s Ntaria team member Benji Kenny. The youth learned about the Ntaria mission and viewed old artifacts and paintings by Western Arrernte artists. We also visited Albert Namatjiris house and learned about his history and art.

In term 1 Yuendumu’s “Wanta Learn” program has engaged elders to teach young people traditional skills, such as cooking and hunting for bush foods, as well as passing down dreamtime stories in Walpiri language. This traditional learning is essential to continue to preserve and pass on traditional knowledge to youth to continue to keep Walpiri culture and language strong for the next generation. It is also vital for young people to learn and connect with other Indigenous cultures.

Part of the Wanta family is Ntaria’s Benji Kenny who has just begun his own tour company – Rodna Cultural Tours. We were lucky enough to be the first group to experience his tour in and around the Ntaria area. We camped out bush for two nights, cooking over a fire and sleeping in swags under the stars. This allowed young people to reconnect with culture, away from smartphones and the internet, learning about the simple ways of living. 

We visited the Finke river, one of the oldest rivers in the world, swam in gorges, fished, cooked roo tails along the river and spent each night around the campfire learning the dreamtime stories of the region and about Western Arrernte history and culture.

The 900km round trip was an incredible opportunity for young people to connect with culture, immerse themselves in traditional and modern art and learn practical life skills in cooking, camping, fishing and living out bush by Indigenous staff.

Thank you so much to Benji Kenny and Rodna Cultural Tours for hosting us and for allowing Yuendumu’s mob to learn more about the Arrernte culture.

Thank you to GMAAAC and NIAA for continuing to support the youth of Yuendumu to learn in both modern and traditional ways that support them to stay connected to culture and to learn skills to provide them with pathways and opportunities for their future.

Written by Tenille Rickard, Director Yuendumu RSAS & Sports Academy