Aboriginal language revitalisation supports children and communities

The Ninganah No More (NNM) Aboriginal languages program has hit its stride in 2022, with the very first Aboriginal language hub established on Gumbaynggirr country and an additional two hub areas not far behind.

Christian Lugnan, CFO of Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation, crouches to speak with a and Language Speaker in front of a wall of photos. Christian Lugnan, CFO of Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation, crouches to speak with a and Language Speaker in front of a wall of photos.
Image: Christian Lugnan, CFO of Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation, and Language Speaker.

The NNM Aboriginal language program aims to increase the level of Aboriginal languages being taught in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services. Following a recent review (PDF, 2.1MB), the program has been expanded to support the establishment of a language hub in Gumbaynggirr Country in Coffs Harbour, with two additional hubs launching shortly.

Through the support of the NNM Language Hub program, Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation (BMNAC) has expanded into 17 ECEC services across Gumbaynggirr Country and engaged over 430 children in language and cultural learning.

“We have been amazed at how quickly the junuybin (children) pick up the language, how their world view and perspectives are expanded, and to see their growing confidence, pride, and strong sense of self,” said BMNAC Executive Officer Clark Webb.

“Seeing the language journey of our Junuybin has been incredibly rewarding.”

Clark shared that the NNM Language Hub program has had a positive impact that is felt by the entire community and will continue to improve outcomes for their children, long after they have finished their early childhood education.

“Through the language hub, we can provide employment opportunities that help support our adult language teachers and learners.

“The significance of these programs also has implications that reach beyond the early years – reverberating positive outcomes that will continue throughout their lives and across the entire community as we have already seen.”

In 2022, BMNAC opened the Gumbaynggirr Giingana Freedom School, the first bi-lingual school with an Aboriginal language in NSW. Many of the students come from the preschools where the language programs run, providing a continuation of learning that is integral to the language revitalisation efforts.

“Our elders speak of the sadness they experienced being punished for using their language. Language is the lifeline to our knowledge systems and our connections, and language and cultural revitalisation is healing for our communities,” shared Clark.

“Our children will have a different story to us. They will grow up to do amazing things, and what a world they will create!”

Kulai Preschool in Coffs Harbour is one of the 17 services that are supported by BMNAC. Kulai Preschool Director Aunty Julie Carey loves to see the relationship between the children and their language teachers grow.

“Somebody comes in to teach Gumbaynggirr every day, and the children have a good relationship with the teachers. They are people they know through the community, and the strong, trusting relationship the teachers have with the families makes a huge difference for everyone,” said Aunty Julie.

For Aunty Julie, language supports the children’s overall development and increases their connection to Country and culture.

“When they are being taught their language, the children listen. Listening is a key element in our culture – listening and respecting. They can hear the words and the sounds vibrate all around them – you can feel it.

“It’s just a basic need for our children to have access to our language. It builds a sense of pride and confidence. That sense of belonging to the land, the Country and to the community through language and movement.

“They have a sense of belonging, like they’re not alone in the world,” shared Aunty Julie.

Christian Lugnan, CFO of Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation, teaching a group of children. Christian Lugnan, CFO of Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation, teaching a group of children.
Image: Christian Lugnan, CFO of Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation, and Language Speaker.
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