Wauchope High School’s Yarning Circle

The school’s Junior AECG was successful in receiving a grant for a Yarning Circle at Wauchope High School. In 2015, students, staff, Elders and community members moved to the proposed site to discuss location and approval. The school received great feedback from Elders and community members and we worked closely together to see the project carried out to the end product that we are very proud to have as part of our school today.

During NAIDOC celebrations, totem poles were decorated with language and ‘the hand’, the symbol of belonging. Students, staff, Elders and community members celebrated the official opening of the Yarning Circle with a cultural smoking ceremony. The day was also celebrated with special guest performer Sean Choolburra who joined us to entertain the whole school and share in the opening celebrations.

Painting Totem Poles

Marking out the circle

The Yarning Circle

What is yarning?

Yarning is a term related to Indigenous ways of sharing, inquiring and managing knowing about the world. It is a process that can equally apply to a form of storytelling as it can to having an informal but respectful conversation.

Introducing Yarning Circles to the students

Yarning Circles have been used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years to discuss issues in an inclusive and collaborative matter. We can follow the model of the Yarning Circle to discuss deep issues. It is important to be present, to have respectful interactions, to be open and honest, to listen deeply, acknowledge others and offer your own thoughts and feelings in turn.

The process of assembling a Yarning Circle

  1. Form a complete circle.
    • Ensure that everyone is seated equally and that everyone can see all participants in the circle.
  2. Explain that everyone is equal and all responses are valid.
    • Explain that in the circle, everyone is equal, including the teacher, and that everyone’s responses are valid.
    • Ensure that all participants understand that the circle is a safe place where everyone has the right to contribute or just listen and where all opinions are valid.
    • Explain that a response may be a word, sentence or extended explanation.
  3. ‘Check in’ before the yarn starts.
    • Explain that before the yarn starts all participants must ‘check in’ in relation to the issue.
    • Demonstrate that this is done by showing thumbs up, thumbs down or flat palms to demonstrate how you feel about the issue for discussion.
  4. Introduce the Djuyaliyn (talking) stick to signal when participants speak.
    • The speaker picks up the Djuyaliyn (talking) stick from the centre of the circle and brings it back to his or her original place in the circle.
    • Only the person holding the Djuyaling stick can speak.
    • Others listen with respect.
    • The Djuyaliyn stick is returned to the ground in the centre of the circle to signal the end of a speaker’s contribution.
    • The next speaker takes the stick and shares his or her experience.
  5. Listen and be respectful to speakers.
    • Explain that when the holder of the Djuyaliyn stick is speaking, everyone must listen.
    • Explain that we are aiming to be respectful to the speaker and, in return, everyone else will be respectful to them.
  6. ‘Check out’ when the yarn is complete.
    • Explain that when the discussion is complete all participants must ‘check out’.
    • Demonstrate that this is done by showing thumbs up, thumbs down or flat palms to demonstrate how you feel after the discussion.

The Yarning Circle is to be used respectfully for education, cultural learning and activities.

Story contributed by Melanie Jones from Wauchope High School. Published in 2017.