Yipirinya School is an independent, community-operated Aboriginal school with a unique history.

The establishment of the school was the initiative of members of the Alice Springs town camp community in response to dissatisfaction with mainstream schools, which did not offer programs which supported the world view and cultural background of the children.

Parents were concerned that their children would lose their language and spiritual link with land. It was also]felt that mainstream schools were also a source of humiliation for the children. Yipirinya School was one of the first independent schools in Australia.

The school includes a childcare centre and a pre-school. Yipirinya cares for children from 18 camps around Alice Springs plus some children who live in suburban housing.  As the children and their families are much affected by poor health and living conditions, there is an emphasis on health and nutrition.

Yipirinya School is well housed and receives Commonwealth and State Government support. The philosophical focus for the school is a ‘two way bi-lingual/bi-cultural model’ which reinforces oral and literacy skills in English as well as in four indigenous languages. There is much emphasis on reinforcing Aboriginal identity, cultural knowledge, values and spirituality. The school principal and some of the staff are non-indigenous Australians, but the cultural principal – a parallel position to the school principal – is Indigenous. The school demonstrates both autonomy and partnership, and has created a secure setting for nurturing and educating Indigenous children, their families, languages and cultures.

Grand Circle Foundation funded computers, teacher salaries and more. But the most impactful project was the publishing of the “Honey Ant Series” of books

Author Margaret James, working with Indigenous elders from Yiprinya School, developed a series of early readers to assist Indigenous language speaking children in Central Australia with their early print literacy.

The Honey Ant Readers are an innovative set of learn to read books designed to assist Aboriginal children (and adults where necessary) in learning to read in English (and also in their own languages). Unlike the very Anglo-Centric material so readily available in Australian School’s but culturally inappropriate for Aboriginal people, the Honey Ant Readers are based on Indigenous stories and culture. They are carefully structured in a phonics based approach to reading, taking into account linguistic differences between English and Aboriginal languages. They also take into account second language acquisition theory. They are scaffolded to move from the language of the playground (Aboriginal English) to standard English and they include songs and rhymes to facilitate learning.

These readers are proving to be very successful in encouraging Indigenous children to read and thus are raising their literacy levels.