Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

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Pirnilu Nintipungkupayi (Everyone Is a Teacher): Keeping Old People's Spirit Healthy Through Education

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Abstract:  In the Ngaanyatjarra Lands of desert Western Australia, older people are being encouraged to participate meaningfully in student education. This initiative is being led by two of the authors of this article, senior Ngaanyatjarra women, both of whom work with the Ngaanyatjarra Lands School with its campuses in eight remote communities spread over hundreds of kilometres. Elderly men and women, some of whom are residents in the Ngaanyatjarra Aged Care home (Ngaanyatjarra Health Service, 2021), are eagerly participating in the planning of bush trips, gathering their traditional resources, seeds, grinding stones, bush resins, recalling stories, songs, and dances—as they prepare for the bush camps with students. During the camps the schoolteachers step back and the elderly lead in what is known as two‐way science. At first glance, this work may look like it is simply focused on the educational needs of students with senior Yarnangu acting in a supporting role. However, this article will demonstrate the continuous connections and responsibilities, laid out in the Tjukurrpa (the Dreaming), between the old and the young, to their ancestral lands. It sets out how according to “Tjukurrpa thinking,” the principal way to provide good care is by helping senior people remain on country with family, pass on their knowledge to younger people, and thus keep strong languages and kurrunpa (people’s spirit) alive.

Keywords:  Aboriginal Australian; Central Australia; inter‐generational respect; Tjukurrpa



© Jennie Buchanan, Daisy Ward, Elizabeth Marrikiyi Ellis, Jan Turner, Dave Palmer. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.