Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Art Centre
Digital Learning Centre
Buku-Larrnggay: "the feeling on your face as it is struck by the first rays of the sun (i.e. facing east)".
Mulka: "a sacred but public ceremony."
The Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre is the Indigenous community controlled art centre of Northeast Arnhem Land, located in Yirrkala, a small Aboriginal community on the north-eastern tip of the top end of the Northern Territory, approximately 700km east of Darwin. Their mission is to sustain and protect Yolngu cultural knowledge in Northeast Arnhem Land under the leadership of community members.
The Mulka Project opened the door to its new digital learning centre on July 31st 2015. From that moment onwards the centre has been a hive of activity guided by the centre's coordinator. Within its first week the community elders renamed the Yirrkala Digital Learning Centre 'Yalu' which is dhuwal language for 'nest'. The Nelson Meers Foundation is a founding supporter of the Yalu, providing support for a Digital Learning Co-ordinator to manage the Digital Learning Centre and guide visitors through the Yolngu digital archive.
The community leaders believe that access to the internet is a human right and that those without the necessary computer skills are at risk of social and economic disadvantage. The Yalu unites organisations and communities to transform lives through digital literacy. The Yalu provides a space for many community based organisations as well as individuals to access computers, computer applications and the internet. The Yalu delivers support, guidance, and resources to these organisations, and to those in need, to improve their digital literacy. The Yalu also offers a range of opportunities for learning, training and entertainment for the children of Yirrkala, Nhulunbuy and surrounding areas.
The centre currently contains 10 iMacs, which as a default act as portals to the Yalu archive. This archive contains thousands of recordings pertaining to Yolngu culture and ceremony life. The Mulka Project is publishing new material into this archive weekly. Every computer when opened starts off within the archive, and for many Yolngu this is where they remain. For other Yolngu this centre acts as the sole public access to the internet and is used daily for banking, emailing, and social networking.
The Yalu's coordinator is charged with guiding and facilitating the community's access to the centre. The Yalu is host to four generations of Yolngu with varied needs, and in many cases, little to no computer literacy. In the first 5 months the coordinator has helped countless community members gain self sufficiency and obtain the computer literacy required to achieve their goals within the Yalu.
The Mulka Project has also delivered digital workshops to the community, staff, and local school groups. These have covered film editing, post production, music production, and introductory IT training.
The Yalu has also been host to many local organisations who have utilised the space to access online training and deliver digital workshops.
The Yalu's first year has been a successful trial period. The community has embraced the space and helped create a positive multi-generational environment. A large number of Yolngu from the homeland communities visit the Yalu when they are in Yirrkala. Many of them have become self sufficient in downloading the latest media from the archive and sharing it back to their communities. As the sole point of public computer access in Northeast Arnhem Land the Yalu has become a priceless asset to the community. For many Yolngu the Yalu is their only contact with computers, the internet, and a digital world the majority of Australians take for granted.