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Lessons learnt in 2006

The biggest development for the Dharawal/Dhurga Language Program in 2006 at Vincentia High School was that Mitch Martin came on board as the Community Language Teacher. Mitch comes from a respected family in the area and brings with him cultural knowledge and connection to the language. It also meant that teaching could now begin and the following topics in the section show this that the Vincentia High School team moved from the research phase to the implementation phase in 2006:

  • The team teaching approach
  • Programming
  • The pilot to begin teaching.

The team teaching approach

As is the case all over NSW, most Community Language Teachers are not qualified teachers (as identified by the Institute of Teachers) and this poses particular challenges when teaching Stage 4 in High School.

One way to overcome this is for a Language teacher to work with the Community Language Teacher and take a TEAM TEACHING approach.

Mitch Martin has worked closely in this way with Karen Lane since 1996. Their team teaching method, which underpins the collaborative approach to programming and implementation, has been very successful and provides a good model for others to follow.

Karen brings her expertise in programming and language teaching methodology to the program. Karen plays a central role in planning the program and has been a rich source of language teaching activities and strategies. Mitch brings significant cultural knowledge and language expertise to the program. This means that Mitch ensures that appropriate Aboriginal cultural content is included in the program and he models the language and speaks the language in the class.

Karen works closely with Mitch to develop the lesson plans. Karen’s experience as a teacher shows with her classroom management techniques. Karen also introduces the activities and lessons. Mitch then models the actual Dharawal/Dhurga and speaks the language in the classroom. They both participate in carrying out the lesson and activities.


The challenge for 2006 was programming that was consistent with the requirements of the 100-hour language course. The main issues were:

  • finding the time to write it
  • the cost in bringing the team together so they could each contribute
  • the professional development required by team members
  • becoming familiar with the NSW Aboriginal Languages K–10 Syllabus
  • assessing whether there was enough language that has been reclaimed to meet the requirements for the mandatory 100 hours in Stage 4.

In particular, the format in which the language is presented has been an innovation trialled by the Vincentia team. The linguist Jutta Besold worked with Board staff to provide the language in an agreed format for each Unit of Work. This was then presented as part of the overall program and could act as an introductory Teachers Handbook on the language.

The pilot to begin teaching

After many years of research and planning it was most exciting when a pilot Dhurga teaching program began in 2006.

The establishment of a pilot program in the first year allows for issues and challenges (described in the previous two sections) to be ironed out. This is particularly important if your school is planning a course that will meet the mandatory 100-hour requirements for the School Certificate.

Each school will have to find their own solution for offering such a pilot program. In this case Karen Lane was the Home Teacher for some Year 8 classes. This afforded the opportunity to offer the language course to these classes. Mitch and Karen were then able to plan their initial lessons and work out their Team Teaching strategies. They were also able to work with the rest of the team in programming a course that would meet the mandatory 100-hour requirements in preparation for teaching this program in 2007.

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