Bush community learning centre to close


24101 Utopia Learning Centre 2LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – Arlparra, the main outstation in the Utopia Homelands, is about to lose its adult education centre.
To date the Centre has been run by Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Education, but the NT Government is not continuing with funding that is crucial to keep it open.
It will close just before Christmas and at this stage will not reopen. Not a great Christmas present for the people of Utopia where population is set to grow with 12 more houses to be built there early next year.
The centre has an open-door policy and provides a range of flexible learning opportunities that are tailored to suit local people.
Old people go there to paint and undertake art courses, infants colour in while their mothers study, go on line to bank or access government services. Young people play and learn on the computers. Older youth make music.
24101 Utopia Learning Centre 1Joycie Jones, resident, says: “I’m thinking about kids, they are the main ones, we need to look after them and this place is important for little kids and teenagers.
“If this stops teenagers will get bored, they won’t want to be in Utopia they will probably end up in town (Alice) and be getting in trouble there. That’s what will happen if good things like the learning centre close down in Utopia.”
Clayton Daniel, youth worker and local resident, says: “Good place to go when nothing to do. Learn more about computers. We also make music in there. Sometimes old people go there to do canvass paintings.”
The centre was established by Batchelor Institute in 2003 delivering accredited and non-accredited training.
Utopia has a population of between 600 to 800 mainly Alyawarr and Anmatjerre people living across a group of 16 outstations.
In the first half of 2017 there were over 2000 attendances at the centre, 730 of these were adult women, there were also 216 attendances by infants accompanying parents and carers.
The NT Government has been the key funder of the centre over the last two years through the Community Champions Program which has been cut by the Current NT Government. This program provided around $100,000 per annum to Batchelor Institute to run the Centre.
Batchelor Institute say that increased funding would be needed to run the Centre in 2018, they run similar programs in three Warlpiri communities where they are funded through royalties money.
24101 Utopia Learning Centre 3If Batchelor are no longer in the picture, there is good potential other providers to take up running the Centre under a similar model. This would rely on the NTG committing to continuing current funding.
The Utopia Stronger Communities for Children (SCfC) group is made up of community residents who meet regularly to develop and implement plans to improve outcomes for children and families in Utopia. CAYLUS convenes this group and provides support to implement its priorities and projects.


  1. Can’t CLC put some money and resources into this? On a Q and A episode a while back, a CLC employee, a lady whose name I can’t remember, stated the CLC spends “millions” a year on education.

  2. I agree. It is time the CLC stopped walking the walk and started spending at the ground level to help their people.
    This still does not excuse the NTG not funding these smaller projects when they are doing good instead preferring to spend millions on more dubious projects.

  3. “Batchelor Institute say that increased funding would be needed to run the Centre in 2018, they run similar programs in three Warlpiri communities where they are funded through royalties money.”
    Sounds like a plan.

  4. I worked at the Utopia Study Centre before there was even a study centre there, 1998 to 2000.
    I went back in 2011 and stayed to 2015 when the Federal government through MY Pathways tried to turn it into a work for the dole program with obvious results.
    It was a holistic community led study centre that took in horticulture, land management, arts (including music), computer literacy and access to the internet. The centre also ran a nine bed accommodation which went some way to helping with costs.
    In 2011 it was a project funded by Barkly Regional Council and BIITE in partnership. Barkly walked away because they ran out of money.
    BIITE tried to hang on through 2013/14. It was refused funding under Abbott and Scullion’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy and then fell under the influence of the work for the dole initiative and has been unraveling slowly ever since.
    This is a well loved centre that was always well supported by the community. It was a lifeline for young people and gave a welcome place for parents and school aged kids to get a chance to learn together in the evenings.
    If this centre was to close it would be a travesty of justice and an indictment of the government that presided over its demise.

  5. Erwin, any response from CLC, regarding supporting this organisation? Any hint of interest … any hint of caring what happens to this group of people. Any reason given why some pennies can’t be thrown their way? A n y t h i n g at all ?


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