Eighteen-year-old Bond University student Jondayah Martin had the opportunity to welcome a high-powered group of corporate executives and educational leaders to her island home in the Torres Strait earlier this month for Bond University’s Yarning Up experience.
Jondayah, who is from Thursday Island in far north Queensland, received an Indigenous scholarship to study at the private, independent Gold Coast university.
As part of its Indigenous Education Strategy, Bond University organises an annual trip to remote communities in either Lockhart River or the Torres Strait Islands for a group of school principals and business representatives for a five-day cultural immersion.
This year is the first time that a student has joined them.
“It’s rare that you would see a university taking a group like this to see where their students are from, so it was a true honour to be part of the Yarning Up group,” said Jondayah.
“I was able to introduce them to my family and friends and show them where I went to primary school.
“It was also great for me to see the strong connections and relationships Bond University has built with local community leaders and businesspeople in my hometown.”
A previous winner of the Queensland Premier’s Reconciliation Award, Yarning Up is designed to offer first-hand insight into the culture, heritage and lifestyle of remote Indigenous communities. Chair of the Torres Strait Islanders Regional Education Council, Ned David was instrumental in bringing the group to Torres Strait for the first visit in 2015 and for subsequent visits in 2017 and 2019.
Once again this year, the Yarning Up itinerary included two days on Murray Island (Mer) and three days on Thursday Island (Waiben).
“As a university, Bond has a responsibility not just to educate and conduct research, but to engage with local communities and contribute to addressing social injustice,” said Professor Nick James, Executive Dean, Faculty of Law, who has served as the University’s Yarning Up representative for the past two years.
“We understand that improving tertiary outcomes and closing the education gap for Indigenous Australians depends on that pathway from home to primary school to secondary college, particularly when students have to make the transition from Year 6 in a small island school to Year 7 in boarding school in a busy regional town or big city.
“That’s why we think it is important to bring school principals like Stuart Marquardt from Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School in the Tweed and Stephen Koch from Downlands College in Toowoomba to the Murray and Thursday Island communities where they can see for themselves the unique issues and challenges faced by families living in remote areas.”
The 2019 Yarning Up delegation also included MinterEllison law firm Partner Simon Scott and Senior Associate Richard Abrahams who heads up their native title practice; Screen Queensland’s Executive Vice President – Content, Jo Dillon; Managing Director of Clarence Property, Peter Fahey; Owner and General Manager of Heaneys Performers in Print, Susan Heaney; Gadens law firm Partner, Brad Marland; PKF accounting firm Brisbane Managing Partner, Liam Murphy; and Executive General Manager of ISS Facility Services, Phillip Thomson.
“For our corporate participants, Yarning Up is an opportunity to meet local businesspeople and leaders who can shed some light on the needs of community organisations,” said Professor James.
“On Thursday Island, we spent a lot of time with Ned David from the Torres Strait Islanders Regional Education Council, Councillor Fraser Nai from the Torres Strait Island Regional Council, Kaurareg Native Title Chair Milton Savage and a number of other Elders, aunties, leaders and educators.
“It was also fantastic to see how our corporate participants really appreciated their time on Murray Island where each one was ‘adopted’ by a local child and their family for the duration of their visit. The clear feedback was that our two days on Mer, where we were welcomed into the children’s school classrooms, homes and church, and sat with their families at community meals was a personal highlight for all our Yarning Up participants.
“Most of all, it was heartening to see how everyone embraced Yarning Up as an opportunity to listen and learn.
“Our focus is on building genuine relationships and finding out how we might be able to help the local people achieve the goals and dreams they have for themselves and their children.”