Yirara College: many languages, many histories
Many of the students of Yirara College come from communities served by Finke River Mission (predominantly Central Desert). But most students come from remote communities beyond Central Australia that are not connected with the Lutheran Church. This includes communities around Tenant Creek, Katherine, all over the Top End, Gulf Country, the Kimberleys and APY Lands, as well as some around Alice Springs.
The Christian message arrived at these remote communities with missionaries from the Anglican, Baptist, Uniting, Catholic, as well as Lutheran churches, along with the Aboriginal Inland Mission and, recently, the Seventh Day Adventists. Some of the communities have a Christian history dating back over 140 years, much like our own Lutheran history at Hermannsburg.
This makes Yirara College a truly multi-denominational space and an ecumenical worshipping community. The majority of Yirara students identify a connection to the faith communities of their families and have an interest in Christian spirituality. As such, the Yirara College community of teenagers is somewhat unique in the national Australian religious context, as most students in colleges located across our capital cities would not acknowledge such a connection.
The faith communities to which Yirara students’ families are connected are respected and acknowledged by Yirara College. As Yirara chaplain, I have travelled across the Northern Territory to meet Indigenous pastors and other church leaders from Anglican, AIM and Lutheran community congregations. I have also met with non-Indigenous leaders from the Baptist, Uniting, Catholic, Pentecostal and Lutheran churches, who give pastoral support to many remote Indigenous families.
I am pleased to say that generally they are all very supportive of what we do here at Yirara College.
When we worship together at Yirara, we look for our common ground – the mercy and love of Jesus that unites us, and draws us together.
Yirara College baptism and communion day
Yirara College Baptism and Communion Day (pictured) was celebrated this year on Sunday 7 November.
Many families and students had waited a long time for this day, and families of the students had travelled a long way to be there.
Students celebrating their baptism and communion day came from many different communities, some from the desert, some from the top end, from Imanpa, Elliot, Papunya, Indulkana, Dhalinbuy, Robinson River, Tenant Creek, Borroloola, Doomadgee, Mungkarta, Titjikala, Binjari, Katherine, Yuelamau, Minyerri, Ntaria, Rainbow Valley, Areyonga and Alice Springs.
The Yirara staff band played beautifully, with many students joining the band on tambourine. Some of the songs were sung in Luritja and Aranda. Howei Gurruwiwi from Dhalinbuy in Arnhem Land played the didgeridoo with me (Ingkarta Basil) playing guitar.
Tobias Hume from Katherine read the readings for the day. Steve Silver from Ngukurr community presented the baptism candles, and Lizzie Jako from Alice Springs and Miss Chris helped with communion.
After the celebrations in the chapel, the families of students joined with them for a BBQ dinner in the dining room and outside on the lawns.
Pastor Basil Schild is Chaplain at Yirara College.