A visionary plan to build a boarding school in the Groote archipelago is expected to get the go-ahead in March.
The Aboriginals Benefit Account has given in-principle approval for a $40 million grant.
Design work will take about 12 months, which means construction could start at the beginning of the 2022 dry season and the school be opened about the start of the 2023 academic year.
A survey of three quarters of Groote parents by the Anindilyakwa Land Council found that 80 percent would send their children to the new school.
Land council Infrastructure and Development Manager Matt Houston says: “People are very keen for the school to go ahead.”
The school will be built on Bickerton Island, which is 13 kilometres off the coast of the main island.
It will at first take 20 students, who will board with culturally appropriate host families – a model being used successfully at a boarding school on the Tiwi Islands.
Land council chair Tony Wurramarrba says the boarding school will help children “stand in both worlds for their future”.
Only 20 percent of Groote children enrolled in school actually attend – and many, if not most, children aren’t even enrolled.
Mr Wurramarrba says 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.
Mr Houston says: “Parents are appreciative of the education their children are getting in Queensland – they notice it when they go to visit or bring the kids home for holidays.
“But, understandably, they want their children educated closer to home.”