Nambucca Heads students lead the way in cultural tourism

A pilot course is helping secure the future of Gumbaynggirr language and culture on the north coast.

A student and teacher sitting on a ledge with tress behind A student and teacher sitting on a ledge with tress behind
Image: Tourism student Hannah Buckingham with Aboriginal Education Officer Felicia Jarrett.

The Gumbaynggirr language and culture on the North Coast are a step closer to revitalisation thanks to a dozen Nambucca Heads High School students and their educators.

The students have successfully completed a Certificate I Tourism (Aboriginal Indigenous Culture), focussed on Gumbaynggirr land between the Nambucca and Clarence rivers, and inland to the range.

The VET in Schools course was a pilot program funded by the Department’s Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnership Directorate, delivered under the Department’s Tamworth Registered Training Organisation, and aimed at reawakening Aboriginal cultures by preparing students for jobs in tourism with a cultural focus.

Aboriginal Education Officer Felicia Jarrett, who helped deliver the program, said the school was proud to trial such an important course.

“Maintaining Aboriginal cultures is essential to our society’s identity, and having young people engage directly with Elders and those with deep knowledge of the local culture is a great way to secure the future of these cultures and to create a new generation of people able to share the knowledge through tourism,” said Ms Jarrett.

The course ran over Terms 2 and 3, with four periods every Wednesday. Aboriginal Year 9 students were invited to have a non-Aboriginal student to partner them in the course. It used the Year 7 – 10 Aboriginal Language syllabus to teach the Gumbaynggirr language with language tutors Uncle Michael Jarrett and Aunty Edrica Jarrett. Uncle Michael also taught the other parts of the course, with Felicia Jarrett.

Term 3 involved visits to six on-country coastal and inland sites, led by Uncle Michael who taught about using natural resources, history, the local Dreamtime stories, bush foods and artefacts, incorporating language in every aspect. He also arranged a visit from the Taronga Zoo travel team to speak about local native animals.

Principal Dot Panaretos said the course had prepared the students for assistant roles in Indigenous cultural centres, or as assistant Indigenous guides or storytellers.

“Further study could also equip them as operators of Aboriginal sites or cultural/heritage centres, or encourage them to set up their own businesses,” she said.

“We’re delighted with the outcomes of the course, the promise the students are showing, and the fact that we may have established a benchmark for the course to be delivered in other Aboriginal lands in NSW, with the focus on their own language and culture.”

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