Karrkad Kanjidi Trust

The Karrkad Kanjdji Trust (KKT) is an Indigenous-led organisation established by Traditional Owners of the Warddeken and Djelk Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) in Arnhem Land in 2010. The Karrkad Kanjdji Trust (“gada-gut guny-jee”) brings together Indigenous ranger groups, communities and philanthropists to address our nation’s most pressing issues. These include regenerating the natural environment, improving access to education, creating meaningful and equal employment, and supporting the continuation of the world’s oldest living culture. Every project is 100% community-owned from concept to implementation, directed entirely by community members and Traditional Owners. KKT is named after Arnhem Land’s stone country highlights or karrkad (“gada-gut”), and savanna lowlands or kanjdji (“guny-jee”)—a symbolic coming together of two landscapes and two worlds.

 From 2024, The Balnaves Foundation is supporting KKT in the development of a bi-cultural curriculum for three schools in the Djelk Indigenous Protected Area (IPA).  The Northern Territory has the lowest proportion of students meeting the minimum standards for literacy and numeracy. The national average attendance rate for Indigenous students is around 80%, but in the remote NT this drops to less than 50%.

The situation is even more dire in remote communities, which are often too inaccessible and too small to qualify for full-time government education. Education may therefore consist of fly-in/fly-out teaching of one day per week or less.

Elders want to see the next generation growing up and being educated on their homelands, in both local Indigenous knowledge and the Australian curriculum, so they grow up strong in both worlds. Schools on Country allow Aboriginal families to live on their ancestral homelands and maintain their connections to Country, culture and kin, while accessing appropriate education.

In 2010, KKT supported Traditional Owners to establish a bi-cultural independent school at the outstation of Kabulwarnamyo in the Warddeken IPA, the Nawarddeken Academy , with an aim to deliver high quality, full-time and bi-cultural education for children on their homelands.

Prior to the Nawarddeken Academy, children in the Warddeken IPA had not received five consecutive days of education for many years. Today, the Academy achieves average attendance rates around 90% while children are in community, far eclipsing nearby townships (40%) and Territory averages.

Following this success, Traditional Owners in the Djelk IPA asked for support to establish their own independent schools in remote communities where the need for full-time education was most acute.

In the Djelk IPA, Warddeken IPA’s neighbour to the northeast, services are centralised to the only township: Maningrida, approximately seven hours’ drive east of Darwin. This is one of the most linguistically diverse places per capita in the world, but there is currently only one full-time public school across the entire 6,700 square kilometre IPA and its many remote outstations, home to 102 clan estates and more than 3,000 people. For remote communities their only option for education is via Homeland Learning Centres (HLCs), remote classrooms linked to a public school in a bigger township.

In the Djelk IPA, these HLCs often fall through the cracks of education reporting processes: there is no public record of student numbers, teaching ratios, educational outcomes, facilities or funding and also no policy that governs how they are established, suspended, closed or reopened.

In 2022, KKT supported a regional consultation process for Djelk Traditional Owners and community leaders to learn about, discuss and agree on suitable pathways for securing full-time homeland education for their future custodians. This led to the establishment of a new organisation in 2023, the Homeland School Company, which intends to bring full-time, bi-cultural, community-owned education to three Djelk homelands communities over three years with full support from these communities and their Traditional Owners.

A critical step in the establishment and success of these schools is the development of a custom, bi-cultural and place-based curriculum where local Indigenous knowledge forms the starting point for all learning. There is significant and growing research about the value and effectiveness of learning on, from and through Country with a culturally-responsive curriculum that embraces and builds upon student identities, backgrounds and contexts as assets for learning. In these remote areas, it also safeguards a fragile and threatened knowledge base upon which First Nations communities thrived for millenia.

Funding from The Balnaves Foundation will enable the development of the Indigenous Language and Culture curricula which will bring together cultural knowledge, seasonal indicators, languages and ecological knowledge with western knowledge, forming the foundation for these three new schools.


Find out more about KKT here.

Banner image: Marmardawerre Billabong. Image credit: Stacey Irving