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Translator of Dr Seuss books becomes 'mother of school'

Tess Ikonomou -

At a community library in north-east Arnhem Land, Yalmay Yunupingu started translating Dr Seuss books into her local Yolngu language.

She qualified as a teacher and with her late husband developed a bilingual approach to education, building young people's strength in their First Nations culture.

She was named a "teacher of excellence" by the Northern Territory's education department and an honorary fellow at Charles Darwin University.

Senior Australian Of Year Yalmay Yunupiŋu

Yalmay Yunupingu described education as her passion and proudest accomplishment in life. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Described as gentle, generous and funny, Ms Yunupingu guided teaching at Yirrkala Bilingual School for four decades, retiring in March 2023.

The teacher and linguist has touched countless lives in her community, widely known as the mother of the school.

The 68-year-old has offered support to projects and consultations and since her retirement has been teaching the next generation about traditional healing.

Ms Yunupingu was on Thursday night named Senior Australian of the Year for 2024.

"I might have retired from school but I haven't stopped wanting to educate people," she said.

Ms Yunupingu described education at the Yirrkala Bilingual School as her "passion and most treasured accomplishment in life".

National Australia Day Council chair John Foreman said the respected elder continued to serve remote communities.

"Yalmay's long dedication to the education of the Yolngu people, her cultural stewardship and leadership as a natural teacher continues to bring communities together," Mr Foreman said.

Tess Ikonomou - AAP

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