In the 1980s, when community advisors were asked to come to the Yirrkala school to help develop a ‘both ways’ curriculum, they gave the name ‘Galtha’ to this curriculum. By introducing the concept of Galtha, they were claiming their right to a say in shaping the education of their children.
The word Galtha means ‘to pierce’ in Yolŋu matha (or language). It refers to the action of piercing the ground with a spear following the negotiation of an agreement between different groups of people about the form that a ceremony or some other group action should take. In the context of education, Galtha indicates the participation of people with different perspectives that are each recognised to have value. According to Michael Christie (1992:33), “Galtha emphasises that knowledge is not constituted by objective facts, but by ongoing negotiation of our various partial perspectives”
Galtha workshops have been run since 1989. The first of these involved bringing community members into the school to teach the children about the structure of gurrutu, the kinship system. Mandawuy Yunupiŋu, the Principal at that time, explained that this was “...a way of teaching mathematical ideas to our students in a way which will make them more open and appreciative towards mathematical ideas in the Balanda ...(non-Indigenous)... world, yet gives them the opportunity to learn about and respect their own knowledge.”
Later Galtha workshops continued the work on Garma Maths as well as introducing other themes, often involving trips to clan homelands and other places of significance.
Workshops took place on:
Ngathu, the important tradition food source
of cycad nuts.
Woŋgu, an historically important leader of the Djapu clan.
Sites of significance around Yirrkala.
Gangan, a Dhalwaŋu clan homeland centre.
Djaŋ’kawu, Creator Ancestors of the Dhuwa moiety.
Dhambaliya, an island that is an important place for two Dhuwa moiety clans.
Gapu, or water.
Dhalinybuy homeland centre.
Garraŋali, sacred place of Båru the crocodile.
Maranydjalk, the stingray.