aboriginal man walks 2000 miles to attend graduation
Brittany Hambleton
Brittany Hambleton
July 21, 2020 ·  3 min read

Aboriginal Man Traveled 2,000 Miles To Attend His Granddaughter’s Graduation

So far, 2020 has been a pretty challenging year, and there has been far more bad news than good. 

We know that this year may not be delivering all the positive stories you’d like to be hearing, so why don’t we turn back the clock a few years to 2015, and reminisce about a truly memorable moment when one man travelled thousands of kilometers to be at his granddaughter’s graduation, and together the two generations celebrated achievement and culture together.

A Long Journey

Gali Yalkarriwuy Gurruwiwi is a leader of the Yolngu Mala people, one of the Indiginous groups of Australia. Also known as the Morning Star Dancer, he does not know his exact age.

The elder travelled over two thousand miles from his home in Galiwin’ku, on Elcho Island off the Northern Australian Coast, in order to be present at his granddaughter Sasha’s graduation [1].

Sasha was graduating from year ten at the Worawa Aboriginal College in Healesville, which is just north-east of Melbourne, Australia. She had been boarding there for the past two and a half years.

Gali’s English is limited, and he predominantly speaks in the traditional language of the Galpu clan. He touched his heart and said “proud”, expressing his feelings over this special moment in his granddaughter’s life. His wife, Jane Garrutju, said that it was his dream to dance with Sasha and his other granddaughter, Alicia, at the school [2].

Jane translated the rest of Gali’s words:

“I am proud of my grandchildren, Sasha and Alicia, I am proud that this college was taken care of and that they got a good education,” he said [2].

Aboriginal elder Gali Yalkarriwuy Gurruwiwi with the sacred Banumbirr
Image Credit: ABC News

Gali was to perform a special dance at the ceremony with his two granddaughters at the graduation called Lunggurrma, which means north wind, and incorporates the feathered ceremonial Banumbirr, or morning star pole. Despite not feeling well on the morning of the ceremony, Gali insisted on following through with the dance.

Read: No One Came to His Graduation So His Teacher Decided to Celebrate With Him Instead

Sasha: Walking in Two Worlds

Gali’s granddaughter Sasha loves dancing with her grandparents.

“When visitors come to Elcho Island my grandfather always dances, and all the grandchildren dance with him,” she said [2].

This time, however, was a unique experience for both of them. Sasha has a strong connection to her culture and walks proudly in two worlds- that of her family with its culture and traditions, and that of the modern world with her school and education. 

“I love hunting, looking for oysters and fishing and looking for mangrove worms and dancing traditional, we call it bunggul, that’s what I miss, and telling stories around the campfire,” she said. “I speak three Indigenous languages” [2].

She said that going to boarding school actually strengthened her connection to her culture. During her time there, she learned other Indigenous languages and culture from other communities across the country.

Her family has missed her terribly, but they knew that sending her to the Worawa school was Sasha’s best chance at becoming the person she wanted to be while still remaining connected to her culture.

“[Gali’s] very strong in teaching his grandchildren to cling on to their values, to be able to balance Western culture and our culture,” said Sasha’s grandmother [2].

Read: Aunt Shares Post About the Moment Her Nephew Crawled Into A Stranger’s Arms

Goals for the Future

Sasha said that she planned on one day becoming a nurse. She wants to work both within her own community and in Melbourne. She wants to practice culture and teach people her culture, too.

Sasha hopes that one day she can be an example for other young aboriginal girls.

“I also want to be a role model to younger girls and show them that they can do something with their lives and be happy” [2].

Keep Reading: Malawian Teen Taught Himself How To Build A Windmill From Junk, Brought Power To His Village, ALL Learned From Library Books!