What does Yipirinya mean?

Yipirinya is the true school of Alice Springs, going back to the beginning, to the Caterpillar Dreaming. 

Yipirinya School is named after the ayeparenye caterpillar, for it is the totem for all Mparntwe children and is the school in which they have learnt their caterpillar inheritances. The caterpillar childhoods at Yipirinya are constituted by other ways of knowing, belonging, being and becoming. To bring them up properly, the Elders teach them about their complex child-caterpillar-country belongings.



Yipirinya School was founded on the initiative of the Indigenous Elders of the Town Camps of Alice Springs and is testimony to the fact that there are positive outcomes from these communities, despite adverse publicity.

In the 1970’s the town camp elders wanted a school of their own. They felt that the Government Schools did not properly cater for their children because traditional Languages and Culture were ignored and because their children felt that they were outsiders and were frequently teased. The elders wanted a school where Indigenous Languages and Culture were prominent, where there was a strong Aboriginal presence and where their children felt comfortable.

In 1978 the Yipirinya School Council was formed and in 1979 the first classes were started in the town camps. In 1981 the Council applied for registration of the School but this was originally rejected. After an appeal to the Supreme Court the School was finally registered in September 1983. The site in Lovegrove Drive was offered in 1984 and the School moved to Tangentyere Council until the first stage of building was completed in September 1988 and the second stage by November 1989.

As founding and life member, Wenten Rubuntja explains:

Well, this is Yipirinya School. 

Those gums trees are Dreamtime place, for ayeparenye. Yipirinya School is a culture school, it is a Dreamtime school. A council for culture, the protector of Dreamings… 

There should be a good education from bottom to top. Good education is number one. We should show how it was in the olden days when our ancestors lived in the bush. 

Our ancestors used to be taught by their grandfathers, and they taught their grandchildren first… 

Tell them the names of the all the places… 

Our names, the first names, the names of the Elders used for the Dreaming places – those are the names to tell about. 

Those names are still alive. These are the places where Dreamtime beings first came out. 


Yipirinya school has an enrolment of approximately 150 students.

The School has a purpose built Primary School catering for students from Transition to Year 6.

There is also a Secondary class, catering for years 7 and up.

In addition the school has 4 purpose built language classrooms and a Language and Culture Centre for the production of language materials.

Other buildings include administration, the student dining room and kitchen, the school library, ICT lab (computer room), a multi purpose hall, swimming pool, home economics room and craft room.

The school is registered as an Independent non-government school and is governed by a School Council. 

The Success of Yipirinya

Community Responsiveness

The Yipirinya School in the Northern Territory provides one example of a school that has prioritised responsiveness to its community as a guiding principle of its extended service provision.


The school offers school programs for students who may travel up to 150 kilometres to attend school each day.


Aboriginal Assistant Teachers and language teachers work with students and teachers in the classroom.


School Liaison Officers assist with communication with parents and build relationships with the town camps and outstations. An Inclusion Support Team provides individualised programs for students with additional needs and links them with external support agencies.

Cultural Respect

Students, their families and many staff have strong cultural ties to their country and the school maintains ongoing interaction with each of the communities, outstations and families from which our students come.


The School Council is assisted by a Kwertengwerle or Advisory Committee, made up of prominent local people with special expertise.

Aboriginal Organisation Support

It also operates in collaboration with a strong network of Aboriginal and mainstream organisations with established links to mainstream and Aboriginal secondary and tertiary education, training, health, welfare, and community organisations.

Successful outcomes

The school attributes its success to its educational environment, which extends through cultural trips to students’ home country and dreaming sites.