Indigenous Man Travels Thousands of Miles to Granddaughter’s Graduation


Graduating from high school or college is a significant milestone for young adults, marking their transition to adulthood and the assumption of new roles and responsibilities. It’s a time for friends and family to come together, celebrating the achievements of their loved ones. For Sasha Mulungunhaway Yambulul, graduating from Worawa Aboriginal College in 2015 was a monumental accomplishment after two years of dedicated attendance. The college, founded in 1983 by Hyllus Maris, aimed to instill a strong connection to Indigenous culture while preparing students for the future.

Gali’s Journey: A Grandfather’s Dedication to Tradition

Sasha’s grandfather, Gali Yalkarriwuy Gurruwiwi, played a pivotal role in making her graduation day truly special. Making a nearly 2,000-mile journey from remote Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island to Healesville, Gali expressed his immense pride in his granddaughter, despite the language barrier. His dream of dancing with his granddaughters at their graduation became a reality, emphasizing the importance of education and cultural ties.

Legacy of Dance: Gali’s Morning Star Tradition

Gali, a Morning Star dancer and Yolngu Mala leader, symbolized the resilience of tradition. Despite feeling unwell, he insisted on participating in the traditional Lunggurrma dance, showcasing the feathered ceremonial morning star pole known as Banumbirr. Sasha, deeply rooted in her culture, cherishes these dances and storytelling sessions around campfires that connect her to her grandparents’ legacy.

Worawa’s Impact: Nurturing Cultural Bonds and Academic Excellence

Sasha’s education at Worawa College, focusing on Indigenous teachings, allowed her to maintain a strong bond with her roots while embracing a broader perspective. Fluent in three Indigenous languages, she learned valuable lessons from different cultures. The sacrifices made by her family were justified by the opportunities she gained for a brighter future.

Preserving Tradition: Gali’s Enduring Legacy

Sadly, Gali passed away in 2020, leaving behind a legacy of cultural preservation. An internationally acclaimed artist, he played a crucial role in keeping the Banumbirr tradition alive. Sasha, inspired by her grandfather’s love for traditions, dreams of completing her education at Clontarf Aboriginal College and becoming a nurse to serve her community.

Roots and Futures: The Intersection of Tradition and Modernity

In conclusion, Gali’s unwavering commitment to cultural preservation and Sasha’s determination to bridge the gap between tradition and modernity exemplify the importance of knowing one’s roots. Graduation becomes not just an individual achievement but a continuation of a legacy, connecting generations and cultures. As we celebrate academic accomplishments, we should also honor the wisdom passed down by grandparents, recognizing its enduring impact on shaping our futures.

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