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Work experience with ALPA’s Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs

One of the most rewarding moments for Modfab this year has been providing work experience for ALPA’s Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs. We travelled to Arnhem Land across technology and even language barriers to provide custom workshops in 3D printing, CAD and design.

The aim of working with the Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs is to give the group the skills and knowledge needed to train Milingimbi and Ramingining school students in the use 3D Printing, design and CAD.

Strap yourself in and discover our amazing adventure with the Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs for yourself!

Who is ALPA?

The Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA) is Australia’s largest Aboriginal Corporation. It’s considered an Indigenous success story.

ALPA is 100 % Indigenous owned by community members in Milingimbi, Ramingining, Minjilang, Gapuwiyak and Galiwin’ku. This remarkable collective ownership organisational structure acts as the communities own vehicle for progress. The aim is to put Indigenous people in the driving seat, governing and guiding the businesses and projects delivered in their communities.

By putting power in the hands of the communities it serves, this ensures projects do not have a Eurocentric view and instead reflect the cultural nuances and local vision.

Who are the Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs?

The ALPA members, the Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs, are from Milingimbi and Ramingining. They own the Plastic Fantastic Project. Modfab is proud to support this endeavour by delivering training in Design, CAD and 3D Printing. The aim is to empower through providing education, skills and tools. Thus giving groups like the Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs what they need to not only put what they learn into action, but also to pass it onto the next generation.

By sharing the knowledge and kindling the curiosity, the Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs can take the design, CAD and 3D Printing skills they learn to their friends, families, schools, workplaces and more. This is what Indigenous self-empowerment looks like in action.

Modfab assists ALPA’s Plastic Fantastic Project to line up with the IDX Roadmap

As part of ALPA’s Plastic Fantastic Project, Modfab is committed to empowering Indigenous communities to facilitate training. Subjects like Design, CAD, 3D Printing and the principles of recycling and reuse are taught to school students in remote communities in keeping with the outcomes.

How this is undertaken and implemented is stipulated by the IDX “Roadmap for Building Indigenous Digital Excellence: Looking to 2030”  and the Australian Curriculum. We also apply our firsthand knowledge and experience as Certificate IV trainers customising training in accordance with LLN, ESL and low computer literacy.

Over the last two years, under Modfab’s guidance, Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs extended their repertoire of CAD design, 3D Printing skills and their knowledge of recycling and reuse on country through the lens of their own culture. And they are facilitating training in their own language, Yolngu Matha, to two remote community schools namely Milingimbi and Ramingining schools.

The digital divide between urban and remote environment requires lateral thinking to overcome. Opportunities like work experience in tech companies do not exist in remote environments.  Plastic Fantastic is structured as a “train the trainer” model . Modfab are employed to travel to Arnhem Land to work with Yolngu digital entrepreneurs.

We teach them how to 3D print and how to facilitate workshops which they then teach to school children. ALPA have effectively brought a work experience opportunity with Modfab, a tech company, into their own remote community.


Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs do work experience with Modfab
Ernest, Darren, Jacob, Leon, Israel and Leandra teaching students from Milingimbi School


The following Yolngu digital entrepreneurs did work experience in community within the Plastic Fantastic Project, delivering training to students whilst Modfab supervised.

As part of their work experience  Ernest Gondarra, Samuel Wumulul, Jacob Djalangi Balbunamirri, Leandra Bukurrdjal, Israel Nauipilli, Leon Milmurru, Joy Yurraywuy and Kristy trained students from Milingimbi and Ramingining School.

Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs do work experience with Modfab
Sue MacAvoy, Principal at Ramingining School receives a 3D Printed Coriander Planter Tag


The training was designed by Modfab to meet ALPA’s Plastic Fantastic Project’s unique requirements. It is underpinned by quality learning experiences created directly in accordance with outcomes of the Australian curriculum.

The coursework framework was pre-planned to allow projects to be guided and driven onsite by the Yolngu digital entrepreneurs. This ensures that Indigenous values, culture, language and country were central to the project, in keeping with  IDX Roadmap outcomes.

The training employed the following IDX Future Outcomes:

Social wellbeing health

A key part of bringing this kind of technology to communities is closing the gap on social and health outcomes as well as sustaining good health through digital technology.

One such way is exploring the application of digital technologies such as 3D Printing kidneys. Models that are healthy and those that have been affected by diabetes are used to improve well being through visual representation and health talks.

3D Printing other body parts also provides a tactile learning environment to understand what the effects of poor and good health have on body parts.

Our digital elder and entrepreneur, Ernest Gondarra, has gone to the Milingimbi school to highlight the importance of leading a healthy life by showing students the effects of diabetes on a kidney.  For this purpose he brought in a 3D Print of a healthy kidney and one that is affected by diabetes.

Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs do work experience with Modfab

Culture and Country

At the heart of this project is the aim to continue and revitalise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and country.

Yolngu digital entrepreneurs have demonstrated their commitment to culture and country by incorporating those aspects into their teaching.

For example recently the Milingimbi Plastic Fantastic Team created 3d printed objects for the Gatjirrk Festival 2016 . The range of items produced included 3D Printed Gatjirrk Stamp T Shirts, 3D Printed Gatjirrk Pendants, 3D Printed Gatjirrk Guitar Picks from recycled HDPE, Gatjirrk Tropies for basketball, footy and BMX bike Winners, and 3D printed Guitars for the Battle of the Bands etc.

Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs do work experience with Modfab
3D Printed Gatjirrk Stamp for making T-Shirt Designs
Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs do work experience with Modfab
3D Printed Battle of the Bands Guitars, 3D Printed Pendant and Recycled HDPE Guitar Picks for the 2016 Gatjirrk Festival

Ernest Gondarra, one of the Yolngu digital entrepreneurs, lives in the remote community Milingimbi. He’s a champion for Design, CAD, 3D Printing and Recycling.

He is the father of six children ranging from 11 to 20 and his eldest daughter is one of the first female Milingimbi Crocodile Rangers. He is a quiet achiever, and a wise elder in the community with cultural authority who is passionate about Design, CAD and 3D Printing and what it offers to adults and students in remote communities.

Prior to his training with Modfab, he had never used a computer before and neither have any of the other Yolngu digital entrepreneurs/trainers.

Ernest is a testament to what putting the right technology and skills in the hands of a person can create.

Recycling the love for country

Another interesting aspect of the project was to develop a place based environmental monitoring and reporting platform to help communities and traditional owners manage country.

ALPA and the Milingimbi and Ramingining Communities have won the “Tidy Town Award” two years running incorporating recycling of HDPE into the Plastic Fantastic Project for example the 3D printed Guitar picks above.

Another aspect of the project was to use digital platforms to learn from and connect with other indigenous communities around the world.

The ALPA Milingimbi Plastic Fantastic Team will soon be launching their Design, CAD and 3D Printing resources on the ALPA YouTube channel to share their learning in Yolngu Matha with the communities in Ramingining and Yirrkala and other communities globally.

Want to see more of this in action?

Watch this YouTube for Name Tag creation

Check out the wonders of Claymation 

Get a little festive with some Christmas Lights 

Make your personality shine with mobile phone covers

Click HERE for Maintenance 

Education- now and in the future 

A powerful aspect of working with the Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs is creating pathways into the digital economy jobs and closing the employment gap.

It’s about providing parents, families and communities with digital tools and training how to use 3D printing and CAD.

As part of this, the Milingimbi and Ramingining Plastic Fantastic Team facilitate Design, 3D Printing and CAD training to these two remote communities.

Our Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs and trainers have facilitated training  at the Milingimbi school and at the CDP offices in Ramginging and Milingimbi.

Jacci Harbinson, Secondary class teacher at Milingimbi School, Billtjpility class, brought her class to learn how to make houses, boats and trees in Tinkercad and 3D print those objects for her claymation project at school.

Our dedicated Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs and trainers Leandra, Joy and Ernest trained students how to make and 3D Print with great success.

Joy loves hunting, but doesn’t like crabs so only goes for the Shellfish.  Her eldest daughter is one of the first female Milingimbi Crocodile Rangers.  She also works as Remote School Attendance officers since it first started.

Leandra is an amazing Aunty, and an amazing hunter especially when it comes to crab hunting.  She also works as Remote School Attendance officers since it first started. Click on the link to watch the video Claymation




Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs do Work experience with Modfab
Leandra and Joy Training CAD and 3D Printing in Yolngu Matha – Claymation Project with students from Milingimbi School
Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs do work experience with Modfab

School Attendance Workers proudly showing of their 3D Printed Walking Bus Trophy to be handed to Ramingining School

Foster the future through Indigenous Trainers

ALPA and Modfab have invested heavily in the training of Indigenous community members to be the trainers in Design, CAD and 3D Printing.

There is now a community of Indigenous digital entrepreneurs and trainers. We welcome the likes of Samuel Wumulul, Jacob Djalangi Balbunamirri, Joy Yurraywuy, Leandra Bunkurrdjal, Ernest Gondarra, Israel Nauipilli, Leon Milmurru and Kirsty to the program.


Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs do work experience with Modfab
Here’s Ernest teaching Lee about downloading and slicing an STL file.

Experimenting with technology

ALPA with the Plastic Fantastic Project with the assistance of Modfab have provided many opportunities to experiment with 3D Printing Technology including CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) and recycling of HDPE (plastic milk bottles).


Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs do Work Experience with Modfab
3D Printed HDPE recycled Gatjirrk Guitar Picks being used at Milingimbi School by students in the guitar group.


Leading by example: Showcasing Indigenous Geek Ernest Gondarra

Ernest Gondarra, a well respected indigenous elder in his community, is a shining light to what is possible with some geek know-how. He’s a self-determined  Indigenous leader using Design, CAD and 3D Printing on country.

He has developed numerous designs such as the SD Card Holder Fish and the Gatjirrk Trophies. He’s established himself as a leader in the areas of Design, CAD, 3D Printing and recycling of HDPE materials. And he also carries the weight of cultural authority in the  community.

Through Ernest being Ernest, he has become a strong champion for technological progress, weaving these new tools into the fabric of community life.

Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs do Work experience with Modfab
Kids from the Gatjirrk Festival showing of Ernest’s Gatjirrk Footy and Basketball Trophies

Creating a tech community

Connecting Indigenous students, teachers and entrepreneurs with STEAM mentors via Modfab gives them access to the latest research, application of research and thinking. It’s also part of what we place at the corner of our relationships with groups such as Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs.

Modfab considers itself a STEAM mentor. Through customised training and  application of research and thinking we have been successful in developing training resources and training which is relevant to our Indigenous clientele.

All of which would not be possible if it weren’t for the help of ALPA and the Plastic Fantastic Team.

Promoting the maintenance of cultural safety and digital safety

Through maintenance, WHS of 3D printers and the online creation of an ALPA Yolngu Youtube channel, Plastic Fantastic remote Indigenous trainers show how to make using 3D Printing and CAD.

All Modfab training has been created within the framework of the Australian Curriculum and Quality Learning Experiences. An example of this is talking about Bike safety in relation to the 3D Printed Solar Charged Bike Light and Mobile Phone Charger.

Ernest Gondarra went to Milingimbi school to show how the 3D Printed Solar Powered bike light and mobile phone charger was useful and a useful application when considering bike safety when travelling in the dark.

Ernest presented this to two classes at Milingimbi school, Paul Gallagher’s senior science class and Paul Floyd’s class.

Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs do work experience with Modfab
Ben and Israel showing of their 3D Printed Solar Powered Bike Lights and Solar Mobile Phone Charger

Using technology to engage young people and breakdown geographical barriers 

Building learning resources and breaking down the barriers to education are an important part of everything we do.

Modfab and ALPA’s Plastic Fantastic Team have created an online ALPA Yolngu YouTube channel to show how to design in CAD and 3D Print your design.

Learning resources also show how to slice your CAD models, adjust the slicing software when choosing various filaments, 3D print using the 3D Printer, change filament, do a maintenance check on your printer and how to store your filament for further applications. Maintenance.

Lessons on YouTube include how to make culturally appropriate Christmas Lights featuring shark, turtle, fish and snake and Gatjirrk trophies.

We also identify projects that are relevant to modern living such as how to make a phone cover, how to slice objects, how to make houses, boats and trees for Claymation. Or create things that interest school students such as pendants, guitar picks, 3D stamps, lithopanes etc.

Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs do work experience with Modfab
Lee’s 3D Printed Shark Christmas Light

Building a foundation of numeracy and literacy skills by stealth 

Modfab are Certificate IV trainers. When we teach, we ensure compliance with LLN, building a foundation of numeracy and literacy skills as part of every lesson.

As part of designing whether it be a phone case or name tags, the Plastic Fantastic candidates used digital calipers to measure what they are creating.  In most cases they sketched using dimensions which was then transferred into the CAD program.

Computer literacy was also paramount to training Design, 3D Printing and CAD.

Below, Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs and trainers are using an iPad to create their own digital story telling with video, photographs and a recording of their words in Yolngu which is then underpinned with English subtitles.

Check out our YouTube of making Mobile Phone Covers.

Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs Do work experience with Modfab
Leon Filming Ernest on how to make a 3D Printed Phone Cover from Scratch

Including Indigenous perspectives in innovation and technology curriculum

Throughout this project, Modfab and ALPA provided an environment to invite and encourage Indigenous candidates to fully participate. The innovation and technology curriculum stipulated in the Australian curriculum was given new life and meaning through quality learning experiences. By applying the practical and the theory, participants could take ownership of their own learning.

Ernest Gondarra took it one step further with a uniquely Indigenous perspective when he designed in CAD and 3D Printed items for the Gatjirrk Festival 2016.

Leon’s trophy the BMX Bike Trophy for the Gatjirrk is also shown in middle below.

Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs Do work experience with Modfab
Lee helping Ernest finish the 3D Printed Trophies for the Gatjirrk Festival

 Creating employment in the digital economy

The Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs would not be a success without increased confidence in the communities in which it operates. That confidence in the digital economy as well as their own skills helps close the educational gap.

It does this a few ways such as:

  • Developing pathways into knowledge economy jobs by training Indigenous digital entrepreneurs and allowing them to use this 21st Century tool to represent their culture and country.
  • ALPA actively importing work experience on country with the support of a leading technology and innovation company (Modfab) in STEAM roles.
  • Mentoring Indigenous digital entrepreneurs and trainers to take up leadership roles in STEAM.
  • Continuing the training on country through Indigenous digital entrepreneurs and trainers training students from schools and other individuals in the community.
  • Integrating technology into training jobs.
  • Creating local innovation jobs in remote communities by empowering Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs to train students and empower them through this technology.
Yolgnu Digital Entrepreneurs do work experience with Modfab
Samuel teaching students from Milingimbi School how to make a Totem Dolphin Bike Spoke  

Want to jump on board and show your support for this project?

If you are as impressed with Yolngu Indigenous Digital Excellence Achievements, and you want to help us celebrate and acknowledge their remarkable journey, please go to the IDX Awards Nominate Page and support them with your nomination.

Want to know more about Yolngu Digital Entrepreneurs or Modfab? Follow us on Facebook. 


March 29, 2017
Copyright 2016. Modfab.