Ernest Gondarra – Finalist for the IDX Digital Elder of the Year


Ernest Gondarra is finalist for the IDX Digital Elder of the Year Award proudly supported by Telstra

The Digital Elder of the Year award celebrates an Elder who has demonstrated excellence in the digital landscape. 

Ernest Gondarra, NT Ernest Gondarra is a digital champion and entrepreneur from Galiwinku, Elcho Island. Ernest learnt how to use a computer for the first time through the Arnhem Land Progress Association’s (ALPA) Plastic Fantastic program. Plastic Fantastic is an innovative recycling program that allows Elders and young people to learn skills in technology, while sharing the importance of caring for country. Ernest has used his new found skills in design and 3D printing, to create culturally significant objects for the Gatjirrk Cultural Festival. He was also commissioned by Rio Tinto to design a 3D printed groundwater model.

“It is bringing the communities forward into the world that other people in mainstream are living in. I hope I can continue to teach people to learn 3D printing. This is rewarding for me.”

About the Plastic Fantastic program

Members of the remote island community of Milingimbi are using 3D printing to turn plastic waste into useful objects.

Initiated by the Arnhem Land Progress Association (ALPA) in collaboration with Modfab, the innovative recycling program allows Elders and young people to learn skills in technology while sharing the importance of caring for country.

The entire community is involved from collecting rubbish to navigating the 3D printing programs. The program has also become an incentive for children in the community to attend school.


After community members and students collect plastic rubbish, it is shredded and put through a plastic melting machine. The spaghetti like cord is then fed into the 3D printer, ready to be printed as sunglass frames and phone cases at a click of a button.

In recent years 3D printers have dropped in price making them more accessible, with some home kits now selling for under $500. They are also easy to use with a thin plastic string wound into a printing machine connected to a computer program that designs three-dimensional objects.

For many in the community the program has introduced them to computers for the very first time.

Jason Wandji had never used a computer before he started with the 3D printing project.

“I have just learned a little bit about using the computer and 3D program. This is the first time I have used computers,” he said in an ALPA promotional video.

He said the technology allowed them to make anything from animals, cars and robots from simply rubbish.

“It’s good for elders to sit with children, care for them, and teach them this way,” he said.

You can learn more about the Plastic Fantastic program here.