Bringing consistency to the teaching of Aboriginal languages: At the opening of Bundjalong nest in Lismore.

New Aboriginal language guide

Feedback is being sought on a systemic new guide to teaching Aboriginal languages in NSW as new Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests were opened in recent weeks in Wilcannia, Lismore and Coffs Harbour to propagate Indigenous languages.

The K–10 Aboriginal Language Scope and Sequence, developed by Aboriginal community teachers and released by the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards, will make the teaching of Aboriginal languages “more consistent with other languages being offered, with all kindergarten students starting with the same foundation, progressing through to more advanced concepts year after year”, said Aboriginal Affairs Minister Victor Dominello.

The project used the collective knowledge of teachers, lecturers and community members to make a comprehensive framework for teaching Aboriginal languages.

The Scope and Sequence will support the teaching of all NSW Aboriginal languages including those used throughout five Language and Culture Nests — networks of communities bound together by their connection through an Aboriginal language.

The nests provide communities with opportunities to revitalise, reclaim and maintain their traditional languages and will involve the participation of communities linking with schools, TAFE NSW, universities and other community language programs or groups. The language groups chosen are Gamilaraay, Gumbaynggir, Bundjalong, Paarkintji and Wiradjuri.

The nests will work with schools and create links with TAFE and communities.

Last weekend (March 15) the Paarkindji/Barkindjii nest was opened in Wilcannia. The Gumbaynggir nest in Coffs Harbour and the Bunjalong nest in Lismore were opened on February 20 and 21.

Mr Dominelli said if a long-term investment to train more learners and teachers was not made, Australia’s remaining Aboriginal languages were in danger of dying out.

The systemised approach brought in by Scope and Sequence and the nests “means that we’re going to have a line of sight from pre-school, primary school, high school, to TAFE to university” in the teaching of Aboriginal languages, the Minister said at the Gumbaynggir nest opening.

This would get a “critical mass of students coming through the education pipeline wanting to take in language at university then come back as teachers”.

The first nest in operation was the North West Wiradjuri Nest in Dubbo. The fifth nest will be set up in Lightning Ridge (Gamilaraay/Yuwaalaraay) later this year.

“We now have an established structure for the teaching and learning of Aboriginal languages,” the Director-General of Education and Communities, Dr Michele Bruniges said on February 21, International Mother Language Day.

She said each nest would include a repository for language resources and materials which would be accessible through community consultation. All schools in communities where the nests are established would be able to participate in the language program.