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Lessons learnt in 2006

The three main topics are:

  • Community involvement will grow
  • Language learning for adults
  • It’s important to build up gradually.

Community involvement will grow

Interwiew with Geff Anderson
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I was asked by a friend about 6 years ago to go to a meeting to see Stan [Stan Grant Snr] and John Rudder at Forbes run by Michelle Herbert. I went along very apprehensive, I didn’t know what to expect but as soon as I walked in the door, there was just an atmosphere that I couldn’t believe and I’ve been hooked to the language ever since. It felt like I was going back home to a country that I had always lived in… Right, well, the classes that we have going in the community we have an adult class going and we are getting about 7–8 people, sometimes around the 9 mark per night. I do it all voluntary, all free. The word community to me means you work for the community; you don’t get paid for working for the community. So I do it absolutely free of charge. I have two of the best helpers I reckon I could have. One would be Steve Maier, that’s the teacher at the high school, and another one would be my nephew Ron Wardrop. I help out at the schools as much as I can but the community language itself is pretty full on.

Increasing community involvement has been a real challenge for us. As a community member and local AECG President, my main role has been to increase community support for and knowledge of the Wiradjuri program in the school. This has included community meetings and also just being on the lookout for people who are interested in learning Wiradjuri with a view to becoming Wiradjuri teachers. We have gradually built up community interest during 2006 and now we’re lucky enough to have another Wiradjuri person with language skills to teach in the high school. My role has also been to talk with all of the schools in Parkes about getting Wiradjuri language programs going. Now that the Parkes High School program is getting stronger, other schools in the town can learn from that process and get involved too.
– Geoff Anderson

I’m looking forward to co-teaching with Ron. He is a Wiradjuri person and I’m a Languages teacher. So I think we’ll make a good team in the classroom, and I’m sure the students will respond really well to him.
– Esther Job

Language learning for adults

Interwiew with Ron Wardrop
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How long does it take to learn the language? Well that’s a very hard question for me to answer because I’m still learning the language. I think in the years to come I may become very fluent with learning but you are always learning. So it’s one of those things, it’s not something you are going to learn overnight, you just have to keep continuing with it… Well once a fortnight we have a community language class here with myself and my uncle and Mr Steven Maier the high school teacher and a few of the community members are involved. About 5 or 6 turn up at each time and we basically go through the greetings and family members and animals at the moment and it helps me to refresh my language skills... I think that learning a new language is something that I never thought I would do let alone work in the primary school or high school. I don’t only work at the high school, I work at the East Parkes Primary School as well. The language is taking me into a new direction with my life and it’s sort of given me more confidence to approach people and I think it is very good for myself and for others to learn as well.

I’m a Wiradjuri fella but have been living on the coast for a few years. I’m happy to be back home again in Wiradjuri country and to concentrate on learning my language. I’ve been to Wiradjuri language camps run by Stan Grant Snr and John Rudder. I spend time sitting at home on my beanbag, with my headphones on, listening to Wiradjuri CDs over and over again until it all begins to sink in. I use my mobile phone to record words and play them back to remind myself of words when I forget them. I spend time talking Wiradjuri with my uncle, when we visit each other or just when we’re walking down the street together. I’m trying to learn a lot of vocabulary and get really fluent with questions and answers, phrases and sentences and songs. Listening is a good way to begin to learn to speak language. I’m looking forward to starting work in the school as a Wiradjuri teacher. I have also done some volunteer work at the local shire library in Parkes, making books in Wirdajuri. This is a good opportunity for me to use and practise my language skills and a good way to get Wiradjuri language a bit better known in the whole community.
– Ron Wardrop

For me, learning Wiradjuri is a powerful experience. It connects me with land and culture through communication and people. It gives a meaning to my life that I had been searching for, for some time. The more Wiradjuri I learn and teach, the more complete I feel. To learn your language gives you such strength from inside I don’t think I could put it into words.
– Geoff Anderson, local AECG President

We have started up a Wiradjuri language learning group for teachers in Parkes. We meet each fortnight in someone’s home. Each person brings along a fun activity or a worksheet for everyone to do. It’s a fun way to build up your classroom resources as well as your own language skills. Getting fluent with a language takes a long time.
– Chris Summerhayes, Aboriginal Studies Teacher

The Wiradjuri language learning group will be teaching a night class for Koori adults. Parkes East School will be letting us use the classrooms and the principal is giving us all the backing we need. The classes will be held once a fortnight for a few hours. I had trouble getting names for starters but I approached people and told them it was for Kooris in a room full of Kooris; it was OK then. They all knew each other and all of them wanted in. I didn't get one knock back. Three of them want to start help teaching Wiradjuri next year, they just want to know enough to get their start at the schools. Some have said they want to get some pride back into their lives.
– Geoff Anderson, local AECG President

It’s important to build up gradually

In 2006 we started by teaching Wiradjuri as a pilot project in the school. We taught three classes, each for 20 minutes per day, in ‘RATS’ time (Reading Across The School). We had one Year 8 group and one Year 10/11 group. This worked well and gave the teachers a chance to build up their own language skills and to develop more classroom resources for teaching Wiradjuri. Now we feel a bit more prepared to build up the program in 2007. We will have a Stage 4 mandatory 100-hour language class for Wiradjuri. It will be one of the four Language classes in 2007 (the others are French and German). We hope to continue to raise the profile of Wiradjuri in the school and continue to build it up in the next few years.
– Steve Maier

In 2007 we will be able to use many of the resources we made for the RATS classes in 2006. Also, through our workshops with the Board of Studies in 2006 we have been able to draft a Scope and Sequence and some of the Units of Work for the 2007 Stage 4 100-hour Wiradjuri course. We’ll also have to work hard at finishing the rest of the Units of Work, as well as making more classroom resources. So the pressure will be on in 2007.
– Esther Job

Interwiew with Ron Wardrop
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Well my lessons, I start off with, I go to the school, do about an hour’s prep work with the teachers. Then we go to the classroom and introduce ourselves in Wiradjuri, get the kids to say hello back to us in Wiradjuri and the children actually really love it when I bring the didgeridoo into the classroom.

It’s good to have a long-term view of Aboriginal languages programs. They can have ups and downs, but they are overwhelmingly positive if people take a team approach. It takes time for people’s language learning and teaching skills to get stronger.
– Christopher Kirkbright

I’m really proud of the Parkes High School Wiradjuri Language Team. They have worked hard together and built up their Wiradjuri language skills, to pass on to the students. I’m proud of every one of them, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people working together to learn and respect and promote Wiradjuri language and culture in schools.
– Stan Grant Snr

Congratulations to Parkes High School Aboriginal Languages Team for their achievements in 2006. They will be a mentor school in 2007, to assist the Board of Studies NSW and the Department of Education NSW to provide advice to other schools planning to start a Wiradjuri Language Program.

Congratulations to Stan Grant Senior, who won a Deadly Award in 2006. The Deadlys were held at the Sydney Opera House on 21 September 2006.

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