In the 1970s, a group of Ernabella women attended an Indigenous Peoples' Conference in Adelaide and foresaw the advantages of offering mainstream secondary schooling to their children. The initial group of female students were enrolled at Ingle Farm High School in 1980. This initiative was entirely driven by Aṉangu who were of the view that their children's future interests and those of their communities could be best served by the educational opportunities offered in a mainstream environment. This decision has resulted in the establishment of Wiltja Secondary College which is directly governed by Aṉangu communities and resourced by the South Australian Department for Education and Child Development (DECD). The Commonwealth supports students boarding costs via the Abstudy program administered by Centrelink.
Now, Wiltja Secondary College is a multi campus secondary initiative that currently operates across both Woodville High School and Windsor Gardens Vocational College in Adelaide. It is envisaged that links with other schools/programs will be further developed into the future. Many students have successfully completed their secondary education at Wiltja and with the recent expansion of student accommodation; many more are on a similar pathway.
Wiltja School undertakes the provision of quality teaching and learning programs to secondary students willing and able to engage in mainstream schooling. The aim is to develop students to their full academic and social potential.
Wiltja Boarding provides a supportive educational and living environment in which students are valued and appropriately accommodated. Students undertake their secondary education at Wiltja solely on the basis that they and their families actively wish for them to participate in the program.
The objective of the program is to achieve the expressed desire of Aṉangu that their children are empowered by the educational experience at Wiltja to become self-determining in order to manage their communities, determine their own futures and actively participate in the wider world.
Aṉangu have a strong commitment and desire to ensure their children have access to the best education possible. They expressly want their children to be 'able to walk in two worlds'. Wiltja Secondary College is an important part of supporting this vision and building the capacity of their communities to secure the future of generations to follow.
The South Australian Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) administers education in all areas of the state. In the 1980's, DECD, in a far sighted decision, provided "Operational Control" of education to Aṉangu communities in the remote North West of SA. This region is known as the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY Lands).This situation of Aṉangu control and governance continues and has developed strongly into a cohesive and close partnership arrangement between each community school and the community that it serves. Yalata and Oak Valley communities in the South West of SA are also an integral part of the alliance.
In addition, the Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Education Committee (PYEC) was formed in order to represent all communities and formulate and determine the educational directions/plans for the Aṉangu Lands Partnership (ALP) schools.
The partnership delivers education within the region via 10 DECD community based schools. Wiltja Secondary College, although metropolitan based, is a formal part of the Aṉangu Lands Partnership. The PYEC is Wiltja Secondary College's Governing Council. Aṉangu Lands Partnership schools, including Wiltja Secondary College, determine their educational priorities and develop their plans directly from the over arching PYEC plan. The Aṉangu Lands Partnership reports directly to the PYEC and to DECD. The schools also report to their community based Governing Councils and community members.
Wiltja is therefore a program initiated and governed by Aṉangu for the benefit of their children and communities. It is a unique model in the Australian educational landscape.
Wiltja is formally reviewed every two years by the PYEC and reports directly to the PYEC on a quarterly basis at meetings held directly in communities in the APY lands. This model ensures that Wiltja Secondary College is directly controlled by Aṉangu and operates in accord with their wishes within the supports and resources provided by the wider DECD apparatus. It is a truly successful model of Aṉangu determining their own futures and working collaboratively with their mainstream partners.