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Bond University offers entrepreneurs and educators a unique cultural immersion in Lockhart River

Lockhart River in far north Queensland rolled out the welcome mat recently for a contingent of high level corporate representatives and school principals brought to the community by Bond University for its award-winning Yarning Up experience.

This year’s cohort is the third such group that the Gold Coast-based private university have taken to Lockhart River for a unique ‘immersion’ in community life and Indigenous culture.

“Bond’s first visit in 2014 was with a group of Principals from leading girls’ schools across the country as a ‘Women Yarning Up’ experience,” said Lockhart River Mayor, Wayne Butcher.

“Their idea was to help educators understand the challenges our children face transitioning from life in a small remote community to a large boarding school in the city.

“It also gave the Principals an opportunity to connect with parents, Elders and leaders here in Lockhart River so that we can work together to help our children stay in school through to Year 12 and onto tertiary education or training.”

Bond’s Yarning Up initiative has transformed over the years so that it now involves men as well as women, and has an equal emphasis on business mentoring and entrepreneurial support.

“We’ve seen some significant outcomes with schools introducing new transition systems to help students integrate into secondary school, as well as more teachers coming up to Lockhart River to connect with future students and their families,” said Cr Butcher.

“We are also extremely proud of one of Lockhart River’s very first university students, with one of our Year 12 graduates from Downlands College in Toowoomba now in the second year of her nursing degree.

“The Yarning Up attendees have helped establish new services such as Orange Sky Laundry which has had a noticeable impact on reducing skin conditions for local families, and there are plans for the opening of a container café, also funded by an anonymous Yarning Up participant.”

A locally owned and operated cleaning business – Lockhart Asset Services – was supported through the start-up phase by ISS, one of the largest facility service providers in the world, whose Australian representatives have participated in almost every Yarning Up trip to date.

ISS was once again part of Yarning Up 2018, represented by the Executive General Manager of their education and resources operations across Australia. His travelling companions included partners and senior executives from leading law firms MinterEllison and McCullough Robertson; PKF accountants and business advisors; investment funds manager Clarence Property; one of Australia’s largest fit-out companies, SHAPE Australia; the CEO of Screen Queensland; Programs Manager for the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal; a high-level tourism strategist; and the Executive Dean of Bond’s Faculty of Law, Professor Nick James.

Representing the education sector were Stephen Koch from Downlands College which has a number of students from Lockhart River and Dr Kerrie Tuite, Principal of Mount Alvernia College in Brisbane and President of the Association of Catholic Secondary Schools Queensland.

Their five-day itinerary included visits to Lockhart State School, the Puuya Foundation’s Kuunchi Kakana early childhood centre, Lockhart River Arts Centre, the health clinic, the police station and the women’s shelter.

Their interactions with local families, Elders, businesspeople and leaders were facilitated by morning teas, picnic lunches and an entrepreneurs’ dinner at the Iron Range Cabins. The group also put on a barbeque for the community on the Saturday night which included a special performance by renowned Indigenous musician, keynote speaker and advocate, Jeremy Donovan, who travelled with the Yarning Up group as co-host and facilitator.

“One of the highlights for Bond University as the instigators of this experience is to see the positive changes happening in Lockhart River,” said Yarning Up co-host, Narelle Urquhart, who serves as the University’s Indigenous Cultural Support Officer.

“Since the University’s first visit in 2014, we’ve seen new houses being built, a sheltered area constructed at the Lockhart School and the opening of the Kuunchi Kakana Centre.

“Whilst the challenges of living in a remote Indigenous community cannot be underplayed, there is a real spirit of progress and forward movement driven by Mayor Wayne Butcher that inspires his fellow Councillors, Council staff and local community members who now have the confidence to create their own businesses.

“The Mayor’s focus on education is further supported by Lockhart School Principal Siobhan Jackson and the Puuya Foundation Chair Dotti Hobson and founder/CEO Denise Hagan who are doing an incredible job to improve school attendance, literacy and education standards across the board.

“As a result, our Yarning Up participants have developed a real understanding that it’s not up to us to walk in and tell the community how to solve their problems; our role is to listen to their ideas, dreams and aspirations for the future and see what we can do to help them make it happen for themselves.”

Bond University also works with remote communities in the Torres Strait Islands, alternating the annual Yarning Up visits between Lockhart River and Murray (Mer) Island.

The University was honoured for its initiative with the 2016 Queensland Premier’s Reconciliation Award and the ATEM/Campus Review Award for Excellence in Community Engagement.

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