Thursday, 20 November 2014 17:01

Barriers to Education

Welcome to the classroom of Aunty Fay and Mandy, where you won’t hear a word of English!

 

This week at Federation Square, Save the Children hosted a variety of workshops to highlight some the difficult situations faced by children all around the world, including sanitation, war and conflict and inadequate school facilities. VACL staff Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir and Mandy Nicholson teamed up with Save the Children to highlight some of the barriers faced by children when it comes to education.

 

In this workshop, students stepped into a classroom taught by a teacher who was speaking a language they didn't understand, in this case either Woi Wurrung or Boon Wurrung, and asked if they had any idea what was going on. This prompted the kids to contemplate many questions, including - do you think if you came to school everyday, and you couldn't understand what the teacher was saying, would you want to go to school? Would you feel confused? How can this problem be solved? What could make it easier?

 

This lesson was one well learned by the children who were really responsive to the exercise offering insightful and thoughtful responses to these challenges.

 

These issues are universal and relate to children overseas, children coming to Australia and Indigenous children in Australia whose 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th language is English.

 

Congratulations to Save the Children staff and volunteers, teachers and children from a variety of Primary and Secondary schools across Melbourne, VACL staff Mandy and Aunty Fay, and all others involved, for a very worthwhile event. 

 

 

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 30 July 2014 14:43

Reconciliation Week at Glenelg Shire

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

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 30 July 2014 14:21

Heywood Students Run Language Workshops

During Reconciliation Week 2014, Year 7 students from Heywood & District Secondary College ran Aboriginal Language workshops with 170 Grade 5 & 6 students form all around the district. This was part of the Aboriginal Language & Culture component of the Year 7 integrated program 'Literacy, Literature and Life'. The primary students were split into two large groups, with one group participating in traditional games, led by Jason Saunders of Winda-Mara, and the other engaging in Gunditjmara Languages workshops. After that, the two groups swapped. The Year 7's worked in groups of 3 to prepare a language activity. Each group of Year 7's taught 5 words to each group of around 10 primary students, with a rotation every 5 minutes. By the end of the two sessions each group had presented their workshop 16 times! It was a very busy and productive day with lots of positive comments about students and their activities from primary students and teachers alike. 

Workshop topics included: Greetings; Locations; Colours; Family; People; The Body; Actions and Animals. 

For more information about the Gunditjmara Languages Program at Heywood & District Secondary College and to see more photos click here.

Thank you to Steph Tashkoff for this story and image

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 29 July 2014 14:35

Heywood & District Secondary College

Gunditjmara Languages Program at Heywood & District Secondary College, Yr 7 & 8

languageworkshops6At Heywood and District Secondary College in the state's south-west, the Gunditjmara Languages Program is in its third year and going really well. Year 8 students are offered two lessons per week in 2014, and Year 7 students one lesson per week. Language and local Gunditjmara history is further incorporated into the Year 7 Integrated Studies program to cover the gap in classes and enrich students' Koorie cultural learnings. 

"We started in the first lesson talking about kanang wanga - deep listening - and the concept is that you listen 110%, with your ears, your heart and your spirit." Stephanie Tashkoff, Program Coordinator

During Reconciliation Week 2014, Year 7 language students studying a Local Aboriginal History unit during Term 1 ran language workshops and Year 8 students went out on Country to the IPA in Tyrendarra to have a look at eel traps and farming irrigation systems. The unit they were focusing on was all about eels and the deep cultural and economic significance of eels for Victorian Koories. 

During Term 3 & 4 students will learn all about human and animal parts of the body, traditional Victorian Koorie body-counting systems, and the significance of land and the environment. In Term 3, Year 8 students commence studying a unit on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. They will also be developing a small possum skin cloak as they discuss the significance of the designs and patterns which were traditionally etched into the cloaks, and compare those with contemporary cloak design. The Year 8's Term 3 unit leads into Term 4 where story-telling is combined with art to enable picture story books to be designed, written and translated into Language by the students themselves.

"For the school community overall, there is a sense of pride in being a school that offers a Koorie Language, and being a school that is developing a sense of This is who we are!" - Steph Tashkoff, Program Coordinator

languageworkshops5Towards the end of 2013, students studied Gunditjmara traditional stories and focused on local themes, geographical features and places of significance. Students then wrote a story in English and worked on translating it into Language to produce a series of picture story books. As a result, the school now has a library of just under 40 picture story books which are all in the Gunditjmara Languages, and are looking at how they can transform some of these into animations to use as a wider resource, and work more closely with local primary schools around Gunditjmara Languages and culture. 

"The Gunditjmara Languages Program has been extremely beneficial for all students undertaking the course - making connections between the history and culture of where they live, developing understanding and appreciation for local language and cutlure, as well as encouraging their language acquisition and assisting the developmetn of the different neutral pathways that are engaged in language learning. 

For Koorie students in particular, further benefits are around developing an enhanced sense of pride and awareness of local language and culture, particularly for students who don't have strong connection to the community." - Steph Tashkoff, Program Coordinator

Images: Year 7 students from Heywood & District Secondary College running Aboriginal Language workshops with Grade 5 & 6 students from all around the district during Reconciliation Week, 2014 (images courtesy of Steph Tashkoff)

For more stories about Heywood students click these links below

Reconcilation Week Language Workshops

Glenelg Shire's Reconciliation Week Event

Reclaiming and reviving Aboriginal Languages in South-Western Victoria

 Thanks to Steph Tashkoff for this story and images

Published in Projects
Tuesday, 15 April 2014 12:21

Learning to communicate with the past

 From an article featured in The Standard by Sean McComish about our own Joel Wright:

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. 

 

Published in Blog
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