The Puuya Foundation and the Lockhart River community know the importance of the oral tradition and have used Learning Circle conversations to share ideas, information and generate action in Lockhart.

The Learning Circles provide an inclusive and collaborative action-focussed group conversation between local Indigenous leaders and workers, Government, policy-makers, service providers, and business.  The Learning Circle conversations (held over some 3 hours and with participants seated in the round) create engagement through the oral tradition and respect ATSI cultures such as sharing story.

All participants of the Learning Circle have an equal opportunity and role to offer ideas, experiences and opinions, which lead to agreed actions for change. Leadership, respect and equality of perspective are paramount and welcome – however different everyone’s views might be.  From these conversations, participants create cross-cultural understanding and reach a shared agreement.

Lockhart River Community leaders have said that the Puuya Approach has transformed relationships, built confidence, and created new ways of learning and working. These new ways, shown in the Learning Circles, honour the values and Indigenous perspectives, recognise culture and spirituality. With Puuya everyone is able to meet at a level where they recognise the interconnectedness of all things; where they acknowledge and act on the deep respect we hold for all human beings regardless of race and culture. They attune to what is needed, what is growing, what is possible and acting in partnership to achieve community outcomes.

The Puuya Foundation initiated and leads the Learning Circles to bring everyone together in the one place at the one time, facilitate the conversations and the community leadership, produce its reports and follow-up on the agreed actions.  The Learning Circles build collaborative leadership and strengthen responsibility.

Puuya Foundation Director, Councillor Veronica Piva said “We get a lot out of our Learning Circles – everyone comes for a different reason, but we all talk and work together. Now our women have confidence to speak out. This is really good”.

Over the last 2 years, more than 150 people have participated in 6 of these action-based Learning Circle conversations which have looked at:

  • Early years learning and parenting;
  • School attendance/truancy;
  • Secondary schooling;
  • Improving learning and education outcomes; and
  • Staff cultural awareness.


They aim to improve educational results through collaborative action to:

  • Develop a vision for Lockhart River education for the future;
  • Achieve a 10% improvement in school attendance;
  • See students remaining in boarding schools;
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities of the various partners; and
  • Increase participation of babies, young children and parents coming to early years programs.

A 2013 evaluation of the Learning Circles showed that 95% of participants said the Learning Circles had increased their knowledge of issues facing the community and been valuable to them in their role. The Learning Circles are a great way to work together to design and promote learning and parenting services and initiatives and demonstrate the Puuya Approach of “you/me working together”.

The Education Learning Circles have been possible through a grant from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) which has enabled us to continue to address education, early years learning, parenting and school attendance etc.