Broadening Horizons in Ampilatwatja

The small township of Ampilatwatja is a 4-hour drive, on a long, red, desert road, northeast of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. It is the home of the Alywarre people, with a transient population of approximately 500 people.

Ampilatwatja is not open to the public. You need a permit, and an invitation from the community to enter.

Woodleigh and Ampilatwatja School have been in a partnership for 12 years. The connection began through a former Woodleigh student who became a teacher and worked at Ampilatwatja school.

When we visit the community, we stay and volunteer at the school. Deep friendships and connections have been made over the years. Students, staff, and elders from Ampilatwatja school also visit us at Senior Campus.

The pandemic restrictions suspended our reciprocal visits for 3 years. So we were particularly excited to be able to return to Ampilatwatja, as part of the Broadening Horizons program, in December last year. And the community was so pleased to see us. We were the first visitors that they have had in 3 years.

Head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs

During the party, I made a close friend; so close that I wasn’t allowed to leave her until the band stopped playing music. They didn’t stop till midnight! She was very shy at first, but I saw her watching others dance and I knew she wanted to as well. After asking her to dance a few times, she finally said yes to my invitation.

The smile on her face once she was confident enough to dance with me gave me so much joy. I loved that I could help her find this confidence. By the end of the night, she asked her mum to take a photo and video of us dancing, and we shared the saddest and longest goodbye that I have ever experienced.

Despite the sad goodbye, this visit was amazing. Getting to take a step back, hang out with the kids, and truly share the Ampilatwataja pace of life was incredible and life-changing.

Year 12

Most days I spent the morning on the Ampilatwatja school bus which picks up kids and families from their houses around the community. This was a great way to meet a lot of the students in a more relaxed and informal setting before walking into school with them for breakfast, sport and classes.

During the school day, I mostly worked with the kinder kids where I had the very important and difficult role of acting like a four-year-old. During my time there, I enjoyed many wooden cakes at the play shop, gave plenty of piggybacks and played many MANY games of basketball.

I really appreciated the chance to just be with the kids, and play in their company, often without ever talking. It was refreshing not to approach the school feeling like we had something better to offer them/ and instead/ properly embrace the relationships and connections as shared experiences.

Year 12

The Woodleigh-Ampilatwatja partnership provides students with an amazing opportunity to experience life in a remote Aboriginal community. And for the students of Ampilatwatja, it is a chance for them to share their lives with us, and to journey off country, to Melbourne and Woodleigh.

Students interested in being a part of this program can contact Carey Saunders in Jago, or email

Ampilatwatja School will be visiting us in Term 3, and we will be visiting them in Term 4. The Woodleigh Senior Campus Reconciliation Group also meets twice a term. All students are encouraged to get involved.

Head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs