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Australia

MCF Update March 2012

MCF

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• March 2012 Update
• MCF Overview

 

Kiwirrkurra - the most remote community in Australia

Kiwirrkurra, a tiny community in the western Gibson Desert, home to some 200 people, was established as recently as the 1950s, for Pintupi people who had only recently made their first contact with Europeans. Despite the fact that Kiwirrkurra is in Western Australia, the family connections of its people are to the other significant Pintupi communities of Kintore and Papunya in the Northern Territory. In 1984, an extraordinary event made headlines around the country when the last relatives of Pintupi people in Kiwirrkurra, often referred to as the "Pintupi 9", who had had no previous contact with Europeans, were located by family members and brought to the community, where some of them, and their children, still live.

Kiwirrkurra is the most remote community in Australia, set in the vast surrounding desert country, stunning in its beauty and variety. It is home to some outstanding painters who are part of the Papunya Tula art movement, and who pass their skills on to their children and grandchildren. The school, however, like many schools in remote communities, struggles to engage the children and help them achieve.

The junior school teacher Catherine Reed contacted MCF in September, seeking support for what she's been trying to do in her classroom. She had come to the conclusion that the Montessori method was likely to be very effective for her children and had spent considerable time researching and observing in a Montessori school in Perth, then making changes in the way her classroom operated. She could see that what she had already implemented was making a big difference to the children, and now wanted to know how she could take it further.

Kay Boulden from MCF, and Alex Dillon, a Montessori teacher recently returned from working in the US, and with a strong commitment to education in Indigenous communities, made a week-long visit to Kiwirrkurra. Alex worked closely with Catherine in her classroom, and in a short space of time, the two of them have made a tremendous difference, with the children responding immediately to the altered environment and the introduction of some additional Montessori activities. Kay held discussions with the school's Principal and Executive Principal, and with community members, and together they planned for some major changes to be implemented, including visits by staff members to other Indigenous schools using the Montessori approach, Montessori training for both the junior and middle school teachers, and the establishment of an ongoing mentoring relationship with MCF.

MCF was able to donate Montessori materials to Kiwirrkurra in February 2012 and the school funded Alex to make another visit. Following is an email from Catherine thanking Alex and MCF.

I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for sending Alex out to Kiwirrkurra. We had a very productive week. We spent half the time on Mathematics and the other on Language and the kids have responded extremely well to the new resources. We made lots of great community based three part cards which I'll bring and show you at the Refresher Course, the kids are loving the link to their community in Language.

Thank you Alex for being so supportive of me and providing such a bank of knowledge and resources. I really appreciate all that you have done for the kids here in Kiwirrkurra. You are a part of our team and we can't wait for you to come back.

MCF you are worth your weight in gold and I am extremely grateful of all you time and effort in our community.

Kind regards,
Miss Catherine Reed
Early Childhood Education Teacher, Ngaanyatjarra Lands School, Kiwrirrkurra

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