God has been very gracious to the Northern Territory. At the time of writing (April 1, 2020), only fifteen (15) cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Darwin. Most importantly, at this point, the virus has not made its way into remote Indigenous communities where the number of vulnerable people due to age and pre-existing medical conditions is significant. We thank God for His provision and the wise leadership of the Northern Territory Government who brought in an early ban on non-essential travel to communities.

However, the down-side of these precautions is that all Nungalinya students and Indigenous staff have returned home and classes have been suspended for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, on-line learning is not an option for Nungalinya as 94% of our students come from very remote communities where internet access is unreliable. Furthermore, the vital nature of face-to-face teaching and learning for foundational literacy, numeracy and ministry courses makes online study an unrealistic alternative. However, at Nungalinya there are many things to prepare for and do - such as planning for new courses in 2021, a long series of minor repairs, on-going maintenance and safe ministry and food handling training. We will also be trialling some new initiatives to remain supportive of our students, their churches and communities, and to embed Indigenous priorities into our work environment. Here are some of our ideas:

Digital Literacy and Scripture Development

Our Foundation Studies teachers have been using iPads to teach literacy, numeracy and the Scriptures in a holistic and integrated fashion for a number of years. Our Catholic teacher, Bogdan Zieba, has dedicated significant personal time in developing a website for this purpose which includes key Bible passages with associated literacy activities and interactive assessments. It is our intention to use some of our time in the coming months to both refine and expand this website to help make available to students and remote churches (where possible) further Scriptures with connected learning activities.

Live-streaming Chapel

During normal teaching time, morning chapel is a real highlight at Nungalinya. Both staff and students lead short services at the start of each weekday, and it is a real taste of heaven! Joined together by our common faith, we sing, read the Scriptures, share and pray, usually in multiple languages! In this time when remote communities are essentially in ‘lockdown’, we are investigating ways we can Facebook live stream and/or record morning chapel sessions so students and churches in communities can enjoy fellowship and teaching. 

Bible Gardens

Nungalinya College is set upon 4 hectares of beautiful land. We are very grateful for the Larrakia Elders who, long ago, granted permission for the College to be situated here. Students love the chance to learn in peace and harmony at Nungalinya, and many governmental visitors comment on how there is simply a special atmosphere on our grounds. Of course, we know why that is! On-site, we already have a ‘Bible Walk’ mapped to the overall story of the Scriptures and a ‘Bush Tucker Walk’ which follows a trail of native plants and trees. However, we have a bigger vision for transforming sections of our grounds into genuine ‘Bible Gardens’, matching and symbolising key times and places of the Biblical narrative. In time, outdoor learning areas will be added so students will be to pass on the sacred stories of Scripture within a memorable and powerful land-based context.

Conversational Kriol

We are very glad that Anglican Bishop Greg Anderson has agreed to lead Kriol lessons in Term 2 for any interested staff. Bishop Greg used to work at Nungalinya through CMS and is a gifted learner and teacher of Indigenous Languages. A good proportion of our students come from areas where Kriol is spoken as a ‘mother-tongue’. A commitment to learning First Languages is both a chance to improve our communication, but also a powerful symbol of respecting Indigenous perspectives.

New website and Documentary

We have been working on a new website to keep you, our partners, better informed of both the joys and challenges we face at Nungalinya. Some extra time will allow us to speed up this process- so you will be hearing from us in a new and fresh online way soon! We also have the vision to create a short documentary on the history of the impact of the College over the last five decades. Our Media teacher, Warwick Vincent, has begun the process of sifting through the large volume of digital files that will be relevant and, in time, some interviews will occur.

We know this is a very stressful time for all and in particular our church and individual supporters in southern states. We are praying for you, and we hope that you remain faithful in your prayers for us and will continue to support us, as you are able. Even if COVID-19 takes many months to resolve, please be assured that we are striving at Nungalinya to use this time wisely and strategically for His glory.

Yours in Christ,
Ben van Gelderen
April 2020