On Monday the 20th of April 2015, VACL launched three interactive digital storybooks at Thornbury Primary School, featuring Creation Stories of the Wurundjeri People in both Woi wurrung and English. As part of the project 15 Indigenous students from Thornbury Primary School were selected to create illustrations and record narratives for the digital storybooks. The student’s creative use of language, art and technology has enabled the telling of Balayang Wurrgarrabil-u (Why Bats are Black), Dulaiwurrung Mungka-nj-bulanj (How the Platypus Was Made) and Gurrborra Nguba-nj Ngabun Baanj (Why the Koala doesn’t Drink Water) to a global audience.
Click the icon above to download the apps.
The Apps are available now for download at the App Store, for use on iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch.
Woi wurrung Language Worker Mandy Nicholson is currently developing teacher resources which accompany these apps. Check back soon for updates, or contact the VACL office on 9600 3811 for more details.
Students at Heywood & District Secondary College, Warrnambool Primary School, Merrivale Primary School and Warrnambool East Primary School have all contributed to a suite of six Aboriginal language apps featuring local Gunditjmara languages. Launched on the 26th October 2015, the six interactive digital storybook apps feature five traditional Gunditjmara Creation Stories and one original story about friendship and reconciliation, written by students at Warrnambool Primary School. With the support of key Gunditjmara Elders, Laka Gunditj Language Worker Joel Wright, Koorie Engagement Support Officers, principals, teachers and local artists, students have beautifully illustrated six stories and recorded narratives in four languages; Peek wurrung, Dhauwurd wurrung, Keerray woorroong and English.
Click the icon above to download the apps.
The Apps are available now for download at the App Store, for use on iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch.
Click on the app icons to download a pdf of related teacher resources.
Last week the Shearwater Festival drew guests from across Victoria and the world to celebrate the migration of the short-tailed shearwater birds to Phillip Island. The aim of the festival is to develop partnerships, cross cultural understanding and environmental awareness about the short-tailed shearwaters, which are a significant part of local indigenous culture. The festival takes the opportunity to celebrate diversity and culture, featuring language as one of the main components.
Events at the festival included a lively street parade, performances, workshops and guided tours. VACL is proud to take part in and auspice the festival which has a strong focus on language where Victorian Aboriginal Elders and artists participated in telling stories, sharing poetry, playing music and exhibiting artwork. Many of the activities were in language including Aunty Caroline Briggs' Welcome To Country, songs by Marbee Williams in Boon Wurrung and Wiradjuri, Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir's poetry reading and Mick Harding's poetry and stories in Taungurung. Other presentations included Kutcha Edwards singing in Mutti Mutti and performances of rain songs by choir singers in a Northern Australian language.
The cultural emersion also incorporated languages of the world with an interactive chanting activity, responding to each other with words of peace in a unifying performance with the audience. Indigenous leaders and performers from Africa and First Nations in Canada and the USA were also involved in the festival, bringing song, dance, music and language to the stage.
Check out photos from the festival in the image gallery below.
Read more about the project here.
Visit the festival website here.
The Boon Wurrung word for the short-tailed shearwater is Biyadin. The bird is also known as Yolla, Muttonbird, Moonbird and Ardenna Tenuirostris. The shearwaters have deep cultural significance for the Boon Wurrung people, having brought the community together for thousands of years for feasts, gatherings and ceremonies, on what is now called Phillip Island.
The fourth Shearwater Festival was held on November 21st & 22nd, an annual creative, cultural and environmental event which brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members together to celebrate the return of the short-tailed shearwaters from their 15,000 kilometre migration. The shearwaters are celebrated as symbols of local and global interconnectedness.
This year's festival included a street parade, workshops, performances and guided walks and talks to the shearwater rookeries. The festival warmly welcomed members of refugee communities who now live in Australia, featuring a special concert 'Womin djeka Africa' (Welcome Africa) in which African and Indigenous performers collaborated in performance, art, music and song.
Preceding the festival is the Shearwater Education Program which is facilitated in local schools and includes visits from artists, musicians, environmentalists and Indigenous Elders. Linked to the festival and education program is the Cross-Cultural Message Exchange, in which artworks and messages are shared between artists, children and Indigenous Elders around the world. This year's festival featured Indigenous artists and community leaders from First Nations in Canada and the USA.
Scroll down to see images from this year's festival and a film titled 'Interwoven', concieved by Rachel Mounsey, commissioned by the Shearwater Festival and featuring poetry by Taungurung artist Mick Harding and Adnyamathanha Elder Uncle Dennis Seymour.
VACL is proud to announce that the Shearwater Festival has been awarded the Community HART Award for 2015 in the Community Organisation category! The Awards celebrate projects in which local governments and community organisations are Helping Achieve Reconciliation Together.
The projects featured in the 2015 Community HART Awards bring people together through the Arts, through raising awareness and through deep listening. All of the projects contribute to creating new stories of cultural regeneration and healing.
Deep and respectful listening is central to the Shearwater Festival and the Education Program. The Festival, in its fourth year, is a creative, cultural and environmental event which brings communities together to celebrate the return of the shearwaters from their 15,000 kilometre migration. The Shearwater Festival includes a Street Parade, workshops, performances, guided walks and talks to the shearwater rookeries. It involves environmental educators, creative artists, musicians, Indigenous Elders, community members and school children.
The Festival is preceded by a Shearwater Education Program in local schools which includes excursions and visits from artists, musicians, environmentalists and Aboriginal Elders. During the Education Program, students, teachers and community members are supported to create puppets, songs and dances with environmental themes which are featured in the Street Parade.
The theme of the fourth Shearwater Festival in 2015 is ‘Caring for Country’. It will take place on November 21 and 22 on Phillip Island. In 2015, the Festival will feature Shearwater Short Tales, a series of creative collaborations between artists, performers and environmental educators across Gippsland.
Community members will be supported to develop short productions of ten minutes or less in theatre, song, music, dance, poetry, film or mixed media. Shearwater Short Tales will be performed at the Cowes Cultural Centre over the course of the Shearwater Festival weekend.
The Shearwater Festival is auspiced by the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation of Languages and sponsored by the Bass Coast Shire in partnership with Phillip Island Nature Park and ABC Gippsland.
To find out more and to become more actively involved, go to
You can see short films about previous Festivals …
Shearwater Festival 2014 https://vimeo.com/116616171
Shearwater Festival 2013 https://vimeo.com/82049856
Shearwater Festival 2012 https://vimeo.com/58521654
On Friday May 30, the Glenelg Shire held its annual Reconciliation Week event. A small group of Year 8 Aboriginal Language and Culture students from Heywood & District Secondary College attended, accompanied by Ms Tashkoff. The event took place at the Portland Civic Hall, in front of the Mayor, Councilor John Northcott, Shire councilors and around 200 invited guests.
The gathering was opened in style by the Winda-Mara dancers, including HDSC's own Jamaine Jones, Braydon Saunders and Taram Frankland. Braydon Saunders and Steph Tashkoff gave the acknowledgement of country in the local Dhauwurd Wurrung language. A representative of each local secondary college was given the opportunity to speak and HDSC's Leyla Quartermaine gave her point of view on what reconciliation actually means and how she feels encouraged to aim high and participate at school. Leyla then pointed out what stills needs to be done in the reconciliation journey. During the lunch break, a video was shown which had been produced by local Koorie youth during film workshops run by the VCA during the last holidays. This humorous short film featured Braydon Saunders and Kiah Morgan (Year 8) and former student Sean (Macca) Bell.
Guest speaker Deborah Cheetham shared her own journey about learning to be strong and confident in her culture. She referred positively to both Leyla's speech and to the Aboriginal Language and Culture program at HDSC. Deborah spoke of how important it is to Aboriginal and Islander young people to have their culture acknowledged and respected within their school environment and she affirmed HDSC for the work they are doing in this regard.
For more information about the Gunditjmara Languages Program at Heywood & District Secondary College and to see more photos click here.
Thanks to Steph Tashkoff for this story and image
From an article featured in The Standard by Sean McComish about our own Joel Wright:
Kirkstall resident Joel Wright is co-ordinator of the South West Aboriginal Language Program, which is helping to revive local indigenous languages through the region’s schools.
A REVIVAL is quietly taking place in classrooms across the south-west.
Unknown to most outside the Aboriginal community, the region is home to at least 10 indigenous language groups, taking in Gadubanud in the Otways to Dauwurd Wurrung in the Glenelg region.
Three weeks ago students at Brauer College finished a month-long pilot program studying local indigenous languages.
Warrnambool College will launch a similar program in June.
Pushed to the brink of extinction by colonisation, Aboriginal languages are making a strong comeback thanks to schools and a passionate campaigner.
Joel Wright’s dining room table is covered with maps and phrasebooks. For the past 10 years he has worked to bring back languages like Dhauwurd Wurrung in the Glenelg region and Peek Woorroong in the Warrnambool region.
He works as the south-west co-ordinator for the Victorian Aboriginal Language Program — a Commonwealth-funded body.
“We’re only just scratching the surface with the program,” Mr Wright told The Standard.
“Because Victoria is in a situation where all of the languages are revival languages. We’ve got four different categories of languages — living languages, endangered languages, revival languages and extinct languages.
“We’re in the third category so there’s a protocol that really needs to be achieved first and that is that the indigenous mob need to have the opportunity and support to be able to reclaim the language to revive it in the community.
“The last known fluent speakers of the language died approximately 110 years ago. And that’s pretty much the case with most of the 38 language groups right across Victoria.”
Mr Wright’s family came from Framlingham and Lake Condah where English was almost the only language spoken at home. Because of his pale skin, his mother — fearing her son would be taken by authorities under stolen generation-era policies — kept the family on the road.
That travel first revealed to him the invaluable collection of indigenous languages spanning regions from Victoria to Western Australia.
“It developed my ear and understanding at a very early age about how language sounds,” he said.
“Language is a fantastic way of demonstrating how sophisticated Aboriginal ways of thinking and doing were and are.”
From his home in Kirkstall, Mr Wright is trying to revive millennia-old languages in local schools.
In June students at Warrnambool College will be given the opportunity for the first time to learn local languages as part of a five-week pilot project.
“We’ll be doing a revival and reclamation program that will be offered to the junior levels,” the college’s assistant principal Adam Matheson explained.
“If we don’t teach the students indigenous languages they will be lost. It’s been the biggest push from both colleges (Warrnambool and Brauer) as a joint program.”
If the program goes well it will become a permanent part of the curriculum, alongside French and Japanese.
“We’d be looking to introduce local indigenous languages as a LOTE program in 2015,” Mr Matheson said.
Heywood and District Secondary College has been one of a handful of schools in Victoria teaching language classes. Program co-ordinator Steph Tashkoff said it had been successful in years 7 and 8 for three years.
“We feel very proud that we’re able to offer a language and culture program. They get a real sense of the country that they are on,” Ms Tashkoff said.
The program has gone beyond language and students are immersed in the culture, visiting indigenous sites around the region.
Meanwhile, OzChild has also been given funding to start language lessons with playgroups.
However, Mr Wright said efforts to save languages would be held back unless the state government funded community programs.
“If you look at community language schools, there’s 185 of them across Victoria that are funded through state government and not one of them is an Aboriginal language. They’re for every other language around the world. There really isn’t the support base there,” Mr Wright said.
VACL has collaborated with Brendan Kennedy from the Tati Tati Aboriginal Corporation in Robinvale to publish his songs and stories translated into traditional Tati Tati, Mutti Mutti and Wadi Wadi languages of North Western Victoria.
Brendan has written dozens of songs and stories, from which nine were chosen to be included in this book, sharing local stories and connecting to country.
"I was born on the flood grounds of the Murray River on my Ancestral lands in Tati Tati Country. I dedicate this book of language songs and stories to my mother's people, River people and Mallee people because these songs and stories are about their land, water and animals." - Brendan Kennedy
Please contact VACL for more information about this publication.
To see Brendan reading one of the stories from this book, check out the video link below.
To learn more about Brendan, you can view his profile on our board members page here.
There are many elements to starting a Language Program. We have written a guide for planning a successful program called Peetyawan Weeyn. We can visit your community to assist in the implementation and training of this guide.
We also have limited funds available to partner with communities to undertake a language project. Below are the guidelines and application form for working with us on a language project.
The current round of Community Language Partnership Program are open from 1st July 2016 to 30th June 2017