Melanie Wilkinson

Department of Education

Linguistics studies led to my first NT DoE linguist position at Galiwin'ku in 1980, where I worked alongside my Yolŋu yapa (sister) Dorothy Wanymuli (dec.). So began a lifetime connection and the gift of a second family; and of learning to operate across cultures with integrity, respect and understanding.

From 1991 I worked as Regional Linguist, East Arnhem – a wonderful career with both challenges and inspirations, based in East Arnhem for 18 years and Darwin for 12. I am indebted to many mentors – Yolŋu, Balanda and Wurruwurruj – who guided me in aligning my linguistic background with bilingual education needs, and working collaboratively across disciplines and cultures. As one Yolŋu colleague describes it, my role is to listen in both English and Yolŋu languages and monitor if interactions are on track. For me, this focus on communication and understanding is at the heart of bilingual education.

I have been privileged to work on many projects that strengthened the East Arnhem bilingual programs. Highlights include implementing NT and Australia’s first Indigenous languages curriculum, developing the Wubuy Revitalisation program in Numbulwar, professional learning delivery related to Yolŋu literacy, supporting Yolŋu languages usage in classrooms and collaborating on resources such as books, dictionaries and apps.

My motivation across the years has been to see current and future generations of Yolŋu find pathways in education that ensure a foundation in their own culture and confidence to operate in the English-speaking domain; to know they will be celebrated as bicultural bilingual citizens of the Northern Territory.