In October 1973, a small group of about 30 Aboriginal people moved from Wyndham, Western Australia, forty miles across the Cambridge Gulf, to establish the community of Oombulgurri on the site of the now closed Forrest River Mission.
The move was from the ‘futurelessness’ of existence on the Wyndham Reserve to a chance to build their own future as an autonomous community living on tribal land. A Mawaba (Executive) was elected. The Oombulgurri Association employs an auxiliary staff whose role is to advise the community. The Auxiliary has no decision-making power.
Just twelve months later, Oombulgurri has grown to 200 people, of whom 60 are school-age children, with an additional 30 below school age. From the outset those moving back to Oombulgurri – most of whom made little real attempt to ensure their children attended school regularly in Wyndham – insisted that a school must be included in the community plan. The school functions as a community school. Two qualified teachers are employed by the Oombulgurri Association. They work in the school with four Aboriginal teaching assistants selected from the community. Each of these assistants is involved fully in planning and decision making, and is totally responsible for the day to day teaching and disciplining of various groups within the school. It has become yery clear that the students gain a great deal by having some of their own people involved in actual teaching and curriculum building. The school has become much more than an institution imposed on the community. Women from the community are also involved in the pre-school and child care centre. Working with a member of the Auxiliary, the women plan the curriculum and carry out the daily program.