Aboriginal Language Programs in Public Schools NSW

Land, language and culture are integral to the identity of NSW Aboriginal people. Collectively they define who you are; where you come from and your kinship ties. Invasion and preceding government policies have impacted significantly on the health and wellbeing of NSW Aboriginal people, and their capacity to make informed choices about their future.

The department's Aboriginal Education Policy, commits to working, in partnership with the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Inc. and Aboriginal communities, to implement Aboriginal languages programs in schools.

The NSW Government recognises that many Aboriginal people and organisations are working hard to revitalise local Aboriginal languages. During the NSW Ministerial Taskforce on Aboriginal Affairs consultation with Aboriginal communities, 427 people were surveyed:

  • 96% said they ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that Aboriginal languages should be offered in schools
  • 94% said ‘flexible and locally driven designs’ are key to successful culture and language initiatives.

In April 2013 the NSW Government released OCHRE, the NSW Government plan for Aboriginal affairs. A key initiative of OCHRE is the Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests. The department is leading the implementation of this initiative in partnership with local and regional Aboriginal education consultative groups and local Aboriginal language groups.

A nest is a network of communities bound together by their connection through an Aboriginal language. Each nest continues to create learning pathways for Aboriginal students, teachers and community members. The size, shape and form of the Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests are community-driven.

The current five nests in operation are:

  • North West Wiradjuri launched on 25 October 2013
  • North Gumbaynggirr, launched on 19 February 2014
  • Bundjalung, launched on 20 February 2014
  • Paakantji, launched on 30 April 2014
  • Gamilaraay/Yuwaalaraay/Yuwaalayaay, launched on 2 May 2014.

Where cultural perspectives are incorporated into the school curriculum, Aboriginal students’ performances have been found to be comparatively better than those of Aboriginal students in other schools.

Indigenous Peoples have the right to revitalise, use develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities place and persons.
– United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Article 13)

The Aboriginal language program in schools allow Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students to learn Aboriginal languages. Learning an Aboriginal language strengthens Aboriginal students’ identity and pride, and the stronger a student’s cultural identity, the better able they are to engage in learning.  For non-Aboriginal students, learning a local Aboriginal language provides an insight into and better understanding of the world’s oldest living cultures.

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