Aboriginal Christians travel for up to 38 hours to study at Nungalinya College, a Bible college specifically for indigenous Australians.
“The students are really keen to come and learn about Jesus,” says Jude Long, principal of the college. “A lot of Aboriginal education takes place, and there’s lots of issues about [students] completing or attending. But the difference for us is that the students are highly motivated because they want to learn how to read the Bible and they want to grow in their faith. Many of them want to be leaders in their churches and communities.”
The college, founded in 1974, is a collaboration between the Anglican, Catholic and Uniting churches, and exists to support the training of indigenous Christian people, mostly those living in remote communities across the Top End.
Some students live as close at three hours away, while others need to catch a bush taxi, then a chartered plane, then a normal plane to get to Darwin.
“…land and home is really really important to them.” – Jude Long
One of the courses the college offers teaches students about media and technology, but in an unusual way. They use iPads and Google Earth to zoom in on their own houses in their remote communities.
“[Students] just love seeing where they live, because land and home is really really important to them,” says Long.
“I want to tell you about a young woman. When I first saw her, she looked about 15, but she was actually 27 and had six kids. She was so shy; she just sat there with her head down and wouldn’t make any eye contact, which is culturally appropriate. But she was really drawn in on herself.
“She did Certificate One and did okay. She came back and did Certificate Three. And each time she came, we could see her growing in confidence. She then did her Certificate Four.
“She’s a church leader now. So she’s gone from being a person who is so shy she can’t even put her head up, to leading the prayers at the Graduation when she graduated with her Certificate Three.
“What I see Nungalinya [College] has done is give her confidence, because she’s been able to succeed and has been encouraged and supported. She now has the confidence to do the things that God wants her to do.”