"Having the added knowledge of the Ngaanyatjarra culture from my time in the community gives me a greater understanding and appreciation of the beautiful places I get to explore in my spare time."
Rebecca Pracy had her first taste of remote teaching as a 22-year-old graduate teacher when she accepted a position at Ngaanyatjarra Lands School’s Blackstone Campus. “I had taken Aboriginal Education units at university as I thought it was an important and interesting area that I wanted to know more about. Going remote seemed like a natural progression to put my passion in to practice and continue my learning”. From here she taught in Mullewa, before returning to Ngaanyatjarra Lands School’s Wingellina Campus as an early childhood teacher.
Ngaanyatjarra Lands School is comprised of eight campuses spread across the Western Desert of Western Australia and has a strong emphasis on two-way learning. This approach involves the school staff collaborating with the Ngaanyatjarra people to create a learning environment that connects the classroom with culture and country. “At the start of each term we all meet up and discuss what we will teach to make sure we are consistent across the campuses. The elders in the community educate us on what is happening with each season and what they want the kids to learn at school and we do our lesson plans based off this, whilst still aligning to the curriculum.”
Rebecca believes this approach is vital to the school’s success and allows a unique and deeply meaningful type of engagement with students, “It is amazing when you see the community working together to educate the next generation. We did an incredible lesson on Imangka Imangka (bush medicine) with the whole school. The local elders wanted to share their knowledge and teach the kids how to make bush medicine. So off we went 150 kilometres south of Wingellina on a bush track to find a special plant that was only ready at a certain time of the year. Each teacher then used this to create a science lesson whilst the elders spoke about the process, what the medicine is used for and the importance of only taking what you need from the land.”
“Working within the community, I have learnt some words in Pitjantjatjara, the local language, and the kids have taught me out on country how to find witchetty grubs, honey ants and all about plants that can be eaten or used for medicine. The community have done so much for me too, when I was sick the local healers came over to help me and I have been given many wonderful gifts including handmade necklaces and earrings made from tjanpi (spinifex)”
Beyond the unique learning opportunities, Rebecca also loves the remote location and the lifestyle that comes with it. “Being located in the Western Desert, right on the border of WA, SA and NT makes us within driving distance to so many beautiful parts of Australia. Knowing more about Tjukurrpa (the Dreaming), the land, the language and the people makes all these experiences mean so much more”
“I love working out here, I have honestly learnt so much about myself and this country since going remote and I’d definitely recommend more people give it a go”