Schools playing key role in reviving Aboriginal language

As we celebrate the first Aboriginal Languages Week, Dani Cooper highlights how the NSW Department of Education is playing a role in reviving community languages.

Students at Menindee Central School perform a song, The Place I Call Home, they have written in language.

Whether it is Sydney preschoolers learning Darug or Dubbo high schoolers undertaking tourism studies in Wiradjuri, Aboriginal language is echoing through school grounds across NSW.

The NSW Department of Education in partnership with the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group currently delivers a range of initiatives aimed towards reawakening language in our Aboriginal communities.

This work has been enhanced by the NSW Aboriginal Languages Act 2017, which was enacted on 24 October 2017,  and was the first legislation in Australia to acknowledge the significance of First Languages.

Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Executive Director Karen Jones said she was proud of the way the NSW Department of Education was supporting local Aboriginal communities to reclaim, revitalise and maintain Aboriginal languages across the State.

“NSW Department of Education is excited to be working in partnership with the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Incorporated and local Aboriginal communities to create language learning opportunities from preschool through to Year 12 and post-school employment pathways," Ms Jones said.

“This year’s theme ‘Languages Alive, Cultures Thrives’ highlights that language and culture are inseparable, and celebrates the important work being done by local Aboriginal communities to revitalise and reclaim Aboriginal Languages.

“Learning an Aboriginal Language creates a sense of pride for all our students, and helps strengthen cultural identity, self-esteem and resilience among Aboriginal students.

"It also supports non-Aboriginal students to broaden their knowledge of local Aboriginal cultures, and learn about the diversity across and within Aboriginal cultures.

“As we mark the first Aboriginal Languages Week, it is wonderful to highlight the incredible work our communities are doing, in partnership with NSW public schools, to help our languages and cultures thrive.”

Connected Communities Executive Director, Michele Hall, said teaching Aboriginal languages was a key pillar of the Connected Communities strategy being implemented in 33 schools across the state.

“It’s exciting to witness the profound impact the teaching and learning of an Aboriginal language has, not only to Aboriginal children but their families and communities,” Ms Hall said.

“As we reawaken, grow and nurture the teaching and learning of Aboriginal languages, that vital connection to Country and culture plays an integral role to improving Aboriginal student outcomes and wellbeing, which is at the heart of the Connected Communities strategy.

“We have seen how learning Aboriginal languages resonates with Aboriginal students’ sense of identity, pride, and strong connection with their schools and their communities.

“Importantly it is not just Aboriginal students who are benefiting from learning an Aboriginal language. All students benefit from gaining an enriched and deeper understanding, appreciation, and respect of the world’s oldest continuing living culture."

Among the programs the Department is supporting is the rollout at 17 public school preschools of early childhood language learning in partnership with local Aboriginal communities.

In the non-government sector, the Early Childhood Education directorate is supporting Aboriginal language programs for preschools through its Ninganah No More program.

Across the state, Connected Communities schools are leading the way embedding Aboriginal language in curriculum, with Sydney schools such as Lethbridge Park Public working in Dharug language and Briar Road Public focusing on Dharawal.

In western NSW, Menindee Central School has long been a champion of its local languages, with two of its students among the first in the state to complete Aboriginal Languages to Year 12 after it became an HSC subject in 2016.

The Department is also helping create a future languages workforce with VET offerings for Year 9 students to complete Certificate I in Tourism (Aboriginal Languages) qualifications at Nambucca Heads High School (Gumbaynggirr Nest) and at Dubbo College Delroy Campus (North West Wiradjuri Nest).

A key plank of the Department’s languages work has been in supporting the development of Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests across the State.

The Department currently employs seven Aboriginal Language and Culture Officers across the seven Nest sites to support the delivery of language teaching and learning within NSW Public Schools.

There are seven Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests in NSW:

  • Bundjalung (Ballina, Bonalbo, Casino, Coraki, Evans Head, Grafton, Kyogle, Lismore, Tabulam, Tweed Heads, Woodenbong)

  • Gamilaraay/Yuwaalaraay/Yuwaalayaay (Collarenebri, Goodooga, Lightning Ridge, Walgett)

  • Gumbaynggirr (Bellingen, Coffs Harbour, Dorrigo, Nambucca Valley, Northern Beaches, Orara, Sawtell, South Grafton, Toormina, Urunga,)

  • North West Wiradjuri (Dubbo, Gilgandra, Mudgee, Narromine, Peak Hill, Trangie, Wellington)

  • Paakantji (Bourke, Broken Hill, Coomealla, Menindee, Mildura, Wilcannia)

  • Dunghutti (Kempsey, Bellbrook, South-West Rock, Crescent Head, Walcha)

  • Gomeroi (Tamworth, Gunnedah, Werris Creek, Walhallow, Quirindi).

More information about Aboriginal Languages Week can be found on the Department’s website.

Students and a teacher sitting on the floor in a circle around a green mat. Students and a teacher sitting on the floor in a circle around a green mat.
Image: Students at Curran Public School in Sydney's west have been studying Dharawal language.
  • News
Return to top of page Back to top