Australia/July 05, 2022/By Keane Bourke/Source:https://www.abc.net.au/
Students in Western Australia’s public schools are now learning Indigenous languages at a record rate, with numbers growing across the state.
The 24 Aboriginal languages being taught across WA now have around 10,000 students, up significantly from 6,000 just two years ago.
Much of that growth has been in the state’s south-west, or Noongar, region, where the number of students more than doubled over that time.
But Education Minister Sue Ellery acknowledges there is still a long way to go.
Students embrace opportunity
One of the 68 schools offering Indigenous languages is East Waikiki Primary School, which teaches Noongar to students from years three to six.
“Some of the words are pretty easy to remember, so they’ll probably stick with me for the rest of my life,” year six student Dylan Rowlandson said.
“Probably like ‘kaya’, which means two things, it means yes and hello.”
Classmate Alexia Verelst has also enjoyed learning the new language.
“Because you can respectfully learn and speak the language of the people that own this land,” she said.
Language gives insight into culture: Minister
Ms Ellery said the expansion of Indigenous language lessons was an important part of how schools taught about the oldest living culture in the world.
“To understand it properly we need to understand their language,” she said.
“So making sure that children get the opportunity to choose to learn an Indigenous language is a really important part of that.
“It’s important in recognising who we are as Australians, and recognising the Indigenous culture, but it’s also good for kids’ brains to learn another language.”
While the government does not have a target for the number of schools it wants to teach Indigenous languages, it is training more Aboriginal language teachers and developing resources to make Noongar easier to teach.
“That’s an important contribution that education can make to maintaining the Indigenous culture,” Ms Ellery said.
“Ten thousand students is fantastic, and to do such a big leap just in the last couple of years is important too, but we’ve got such a long way to go until this is widespread throughout public schools.”
Extending pathways a challenge
Carly Steele studies the use of languages in the classroom at Curtin University and said offering Indigenous languages created some unique learning opportunities.
“They’re the languages of our country,” she said.
“So it provides students with an opportunity to learn about the country that they’re on and its first peoples.
Docente - Investigadora Educativa.
Doctora en Cs. de la Educación, Magíster en Desarrollo Curricular y Licenciada en Relaciones Industriales.