7. Yuendumu: Manyu Wana & Warlpiri education
We had TV for about a year, or 2 years, and I thought it would be nice for Warlpiri children to have their own kind of show… because there are lots of English programmes for kids on the TV: they like those children’s shows and they count along with them, but everything is in English and the children are all from another culture.
I think it makes children want to be like those children. Whereas if they have their own show, then all the children on it are their own people, and then they want to be like themselves…and I think that’s much healthier. I think they have lovely lifestyle here, anyway.
There was no script at all – just a list of material, and kind of areas that we know we want to cover. It just evolves, and…someone’ll arrive in the community out of the blue, and they’re an expert in making puppets. So we say ‘…It would be great to have a few puppets, and they make these puppets out of old bits of tyre…We just do things that are funny and make kids laugh, between all the serious kind of counting, all the literacy, numeracy stuff, and the stories. We just have kind of funny things too, to make it all interesting: when we’re filming, the kids just love it, and they’re really in there and they’re kind of…they know what to do, they know what to do, and they …say ‘Look up like that!” and they kind of look ‘Aaaaah!’
We’ve made this sort of sound booth and they all jump in the sound booth when we need them, and they look at the screen and they make the noises, pop things on and make car noises like ‘Wheeeeeee’, and all this kind of carry-on…so they’re all really…it’s very much a home-grown thing… I saw these kids out on their oval, playing golf one day: the teacher must have brought his clubs out from town, or something. And I just thought ‘Ah, it would be a really neat thing to do…golfing!’ We like to throw in what we call ‘magics’: and our star of the show, Gordon, he’s doing all these magic tricks and jump on top of theses…and appear and disappear. So, he has all these kinds of supernatural powers. Even the music, we have the local band, and local musicians..
The kids really like it, and the people like it out here in the community. It’s like…counting down in language…
I just write down a list of words that start with that sound, and I hand that list to David and Murray, and Joe and whoever it is, and I say ‘Go and take pictures of these’. And they usually, they pick out the things they can find, handy… The kinds like to watch it, and they seem to be willing to atch it lots of times, whereas they’re not really willing to watch words and pictures in books that many times, and not really so interested in it.
Lots of kids are still not learning to read, and there’s not a great interest in school or an interest in books, but there is a growing interest in media, and there is a lot of interest in, you know, educational programmes. So I just think that some of the money that’s now being poured into a really European type of education should go more into things Warlpiri children, and Aboriginal children, do like, and do respond to.
Manyu-Wana is a really great thing, not only for young people, for old people too, that’s for the language, you know. Because some of those kids write in language, which I can’t write in language, I [was] never taught that way, you know.