Ngaanyatjarra elder attends Indigenous Conference in Hawaii

Kirstyn March, Rebecca Brewin ABC Goldfields 18 June 2014

Warburton elder Daisy Ward recently left Australia for the first time to attend the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education.

Elder Daisy Ward in Warburton
Elder Daisy Ward in Warburton, in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands. (Rebecca Brewin - ABC Goldfields)

Daisy Ward has worked in Indigenous education for two decades and said leaving the country for the first time was nerve wracking.

"It was scary, a different feeling, but I was willing to learn.

"I learnt a lot things like about Indigenous schools where only Indigenous language is spoken, including the teachers.

"We talked about how we could work together with families, to get them to come in and support their children in school."

Indigenous people from all over the world attended the conference.

"There were lots of people and everybody had their own language, they were all truly indigenous people, they had to bring in interpreters and I was thinking 'wow'.

"When I went there it was a good feeling, they welcomed me from a strange country, a different country background, the central desert in Australia."

Miss Ward said travelling overseas was scary at first.

"I haven't been overseas, this was the first time, going through security it was scary.

"Going into the departure lounge in Sydney and looking at all these people standing in uniforms looking at me I was thinking 'what should I do here'.

"Waikiki is where there are lots of tourists, all different people.

"I could see the ocean all nice blue and green and you could see the bottom.

"They told me to go swimming but I said 'sorry, I don't do that, I'm a desert woman'.

"There were lots of people asking me where I come from and I said 'I come from the centre of Australia'."

Miss Ward said she was hoping her experiences would help tackle truancy in the Lands.

"I was so amazed to see that attendance was high (in other Indigenous areas) in pre-primary to high school, all the children in the community were at school and I thought 'how can we do this?'.

"Attendance is going up in the lands in smaller communities, we have truancy offers that go around."

Miss Ward said she was intrigued by how other Indigenous people got to know their land.

"I was always willing to find out how other Indigenous people, like the Inuit people from Canada, and the native Americans live, how they know the landscape, how they found their way.

"We know the direction in the bush, but looking at icy land, there's no rise, no hills, no trees, how do they know the way?"

Miss Ward said she hoped to attend the next conference in 2017 in Toronto.