Mapuru families, their predecessors, and ancestors have always lived on their fertile estates surrounding Buckingham Bay, Napier Peninsula and Howard Island. After approval was given by the Wobulkarra landowners, the first infrastructure using Western materials was constructed at Mapuru in 1968.
Mapuru elders and their families, despite facing considerable hardships, remain determined to stay on their custodial estates. This determination is founded firstly on the necessity to retain authority to make decisions about their own, and their children's futures (which they could not do if they moved into the larger nearby towns), and secondly, to keep their children safe, strong, educated and away from the negative influences of the larger 'growth' towns.
In keeping with this determination, elders in 1976 wrote to the NT Education Department requesting the establishment of a school at Mapuru. In 1982 elders requested the establishment of a Homeland Learning Centre (HLC). In order for a HLC to be approved for a trial, local people provided a shelter and a volunteer family member as teacher. After the trial period was approved in 1983, and after pooling funds families bought the materials and constructed the first school room.
In 2010, Mapuru Christian School was registered under the umbrella of NT Christian Schools with the stated intention the school would, in the future become a fully independent school. Towards this goal in 2016 Yirralka Education was formed and at the beginning of 2018 the dream of a locally governed school was realised. The Yirralka Education and Mapuru Yirralka College vision is ‘Self-determined lives of dignity on ancestral estates’ envisaged through strong aspirations for self-determination and self-management.
Today, Mapuru is a small town of around 100 people in east Arnhem (Yolŋu) Land, Northern Territory. All Mapuru residents share a deep ancestral, custodial and kin connection with their estates and surrounding environment. Several Yolŋu languages are spoken at Mapuru. In the Yolŋu context, Mapuru is regarded as a rich, vibrant home to cultured, deep thinking, educated, strong Yolŋu. Work at Mapuru mostly takes place in the un-recognised economy, and is mostly unpaid, in the form of hunting to sustain extended families with nutritious food, clearing fallen trees from roads by hand with axes and nurturing healthy, joy filled children. In contrast, the western (or mainstream) world, views Mapuru as one of the most disadvantaged and lowest socio-economic areas in Australia.
Mapuru Yirralka College is characterized by an exceptionally active and high degree of community engagement at all aspects of its operation. Since its earliest inception, the concept of purposeful, rich education at Mapuru is embedded in active, whole of community intellectual engagement and participation towards realising a school that meets the aspirations of Mapuru elders and families.