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Lessons learnt in 2004

Wendy Brown from Wreck Bay Community, Eileen Hampton and Pauline de Launey of Jervis Bay discuss the Dharawal/Dhurga Language Program at Vincentia High School with Pip Dundon, OBOS officer and Jutta Besold linguist.

'The strength of this is knowing that I'll be able to sit down with my grandchildren and children, speak language, not just stuff that I've been talking, but stuff that we've reclaimed through this program. I think it's a sense of pride. I think that can only be one of the biggest points of reconciliation, to go through the schools; and I'm just glad to be part of the team.'

Wendy Brown, Dharawal/Dhurga Language Program, Vincentia High School, 23/11/04

This group underscored the importance, not only of having Aboriginal people to teach the language, but also of making sure that those people are recognised within the school system, that they are paid properly and their skills acknowledged.

'…the other couple of things that we learned up there [at the Muurrbay Cultural Centre in 2002] was that the community were the owners of the language – they set up their own TAFE courses on the language, the Elders approved of it, and then they came into the school and they got paid as the Aboriginal teachers, which brings us up to another curly question along the way here in a minute. And I agree with that. If you’re going to have an Aboriginal language taught, I believe the Aboriginal community members come in and teach it, and recognise that Aboriginal language or Aboriginal teachers.'

Gary Worthy, Assistant/Deputy Principal, Vincentia High School

Gary Worthy, Assistant Principal and Dharawal/Dhurga Language Program Co-ordinator, Vincentia High School.

“In going to places and looking at things like I’ve done, I’ve also come up with these questions that the community are looking at, we’re trying to search for answers for. I’ve got my own answer, I still believe that Aboriginal people should come in and teach the course, still have teachers there as the supervisor, but I believe that’s the direction we’re going. Now we’re a bit lucky with Kerry and Waine, they’re Aboriginal people in the community and they’re teachers too. But they may want someone with more knowledge or a person out of the community to come in and teach it.'

Gary Worthy, Assistant/Deputy Principal, Vincentia High School

'The other thing I’d like to say, the majority, about eight people, Koori people involved in that committee or on the steering committee of the group, we’ve had approaches, and when we sat down last meeting to look at the different groups that we have to notify and ask about the idea of teaching the language course, there’s something like 18 different groups we have to write to. There’s groups of Elders, there’s community councils, there’s the ACT Department of Education. An interesting one is Oolong House – that’s a drug and alcohol centre in Nowra, and they’re looking at using that language to help people overcome their drug and alcohol addiction.'

Gary Worthy, Assistant/Deputy Principal, Vincentia High School

'The most significant linguistic issue at this stage is the lack of appropriate language material that could be used as the basis for language teaching.

'...the grammar, which was compiled as part of her honours degree and published by Diana Eades in 1976, provides useful language material for initial stages of language teaching, such as basic vocabulary and pronouns...It serves as a great tool for its comparative value and extensive reference list that will prove invaluable for future language work.

'There are other linguistic issues that will need to be dealt with as the program moves ahead. These include, among others, issues around the pronunciation and orthography of the language. These types of issues will need to be dealt with collaboratively, "based on linguistic understanding and community’s wishes".'

Jutta Besold, Linguist, Canberra

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