Traditional Owners are planning to build a boarding school on Bickerton Island.
Anindilyakwa Land Council is applying for a $40 million grant for the project from the Aboriginals Trust Fund.
The 14 clans who own the Groote Eylandt archipelago have been extensively consulted and are overwhelmingly in support of the project – 80 percent of parents said they would happily send their children to the new school.
Land council chair Tony Wurramarrba says: “We’re committed to giving our children a good education. Kids not going to school is a big problem in our community.
“We realise that education is the key to the outside world.”
Students will board with house parents Monday to Friday – a model used with great success at the college on the Tiwi Islands – and go home at weekends if they wish.
Indigenous boarding schools elsewhere have worked well.
“We went to see the Tiwi college and were very impressed,” says Mr Wurramarrba.
Only 20 percent of Groote children enrolled in school actually attend – and many, if not most, children aren’t even enrolled.
“It has become the norm for children not to go to school,” says land council chief executive Mark Hewitt. “It’s a crisis.”
The independent school will hold up to 50 students from aged eight and have a bilingual curriculum.
“Groote children don’t speak English as their first language so they are disadvantaged from day one,” says Mr Hewitt.
There are hopes the school will be built within two years.
The NT Education Department is strongly supportive of the initiative.
Fifty Groote children are already living with house parents in Queensland and going to local schools.