The Watarrka Foundation Board has very recently been informed that the Northern Territory Department of Education has, with effect from the start of the 2022 academic year, temporarily closed the Watarrka Primary School at Lilla for a period of 12 months.

The Foundation understands that this temporary closure is part of a number of temporary closures of rural and remote schools in the NT in response to the consequences of Covid, a shortage of teachers and the general movement of local communities and their children from remote areas to urban areas, particularly Alice Springs.

The Covid pandemic has had a significant adverse impact on the Kings Canyon community. Many local tourism businesses have either been closed or significantly scaled back, the Kings Canyon Medical Centre has been temporarily closed and the single Kings Canyon store, while continuing to operate, is holding limited stock. With the restricted local services, many of the Ulpinyali, Wanmarra and Lilla community members have relocated to Alice Springs

The immediate focus of the Foundation is to investigate what care and maintenance arrangements are in place for the physical facilities at Lilla, many of which has been provided through the generosity and commitment of the supporters of the Foundation. The Foundation is standing by if needs be to assist with the protection and maintenance of those assets so that as and when the NT Department of Education reopens the school these facilities will be in good order.

The Foundation will also be looking at what other ways it may be able to help the local Watarrka community during this time, including assisting with education for those who would have attended the Lilla school for its closure. We will be updating Foundation stakeholders further in due course, but we thought it important to inform you promptly on the temporary closure of the Lilla school.

Our fervent wish is that once the Covid pandemic is over the Lilla school can reopen and continue to provide on country education for the Watarrka indigenous community.


Paul Jensen

Chair Watarrka Foundation

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