Winanga-li Aboriginal Child and Family Centre and Gunnedah Preschool form partnership to bolster Indigenous language

Jax Campbell, Jake Snelson, Caleb Turnbull, Elijah Siulai, Brodie Rodway, Nate Suey, Ieshia Firth and Grace Nakia are among those who will benefit from the grant at Winanga-li and Gunnedah Preschool. Photo: Vanessa Höhnke
Jax Campbell, Jake Snelson, Caleb Turnbull, Elijah Siulai, Brodie Rodway, Nate Suey, Ieshia Firth and Grace Nakia are among those who will benefit from the grant at Winanga-li and Gunnedah Preschool. Photo: Vanessa Höhnke

Winanga-li Aboriginal Child and Family Centre and Gunnedah Preschool are teaming up to strengthen Indigenous language in the shire.

Winanga-li has been successful in gaining $55,000 funding through the state government to deliver a Ninganah No More program.

Child care centre manager Wayne Griffiths said the language program will increase the level of Aboriginal language taught in early childhood services and it’s “really critical” to use local people to do that.

“In any language across the state and Australia and across the world, statistically, it helps increase the literacy and vocabulary skills of children and this is aimed at increasing the literacy and vocabulary skills of our Aboriginal children. And we’d love our kiddies to have bilingual skills,” he said.

“It’s all about strengthening Aboriginal language… We want this program to be the beginning and there’s no ending to it. The long-term sustainability of Aboriginal language is going to get off to a really good start here now.

Language is the essence of your culture

Wayne Griffiths, Winanga-li

“Language is the essence of your culture. Aboriginal people have got that and I think it’s really important for our kiddies to learn it at an early age and they have that opportunity to have that lifelong walk with their language.”

Winanga-li’s education and care manager Leanne Pryor said the centre applied for the funding because there are “very limited” resources in the Gamilaroi language for children aged 2-5.

“This creates an opportunity for us to create some really great resources that are purpose-made for that age group,” she said.

“It’s about immersing our child care services in our language. I think it will benefit the whole region when it comes to language.”

The Gamilaroi woman said she will be teaming up with Gunnedah Preschool’s Indigenous community engagement officer, Cherrie Seton, to develop the resources. The pair will work with John Giacon and Hilary Smith from the Australian National University to ensure they are accurate.

“We’ll work with [John] to make sure our interpretations are on par and we’re hoping the resources we create can be printed to create equal access. And that creates long-term sustainability, which means they’ll be in our region long-term. We want this to be long-term,” Ms Pryor said.

Ms Pryor said another focus is educating and supporting child care staff so they can pass on the learning to the children and “they’re confident to sit down and read a book with children or they’re confident to translate a song”.

It’s about immersing our child care services in our language.

Leanne Pryor, Winanga-li

“It creates continuity of learning for the children,” she said.

“We want to make sure the resources are really important to the curriculum of Gunnedah Preschool as well as Winanga-li.”

Cherrie Seton is also a Gamilaroi woman and is “thrilled” to be involved in the program, both personally and for the children at both centres. 

“Our enrolments here are 50 per cent Aboriginal and our staffing is half as well – out of 12 staff we have six Aboriginal educators,” she said.

“I think it’s a great initiative to bring language into the early childhood care age group so they can start knowing their culture and knowing their languages right from their early years, which from my personal experience is something that was never available to me growing up.

“At the moment, we have basic Gamilaroi language that we are trying to speak to the children but to actually do songs and stories in language would be awesome.”

“We feel it’s going to benefit the preschool because it’s going to embed local Aboriginal culture and language into our daily educational program. It’s going to assist the staff with our professional development in bringing Aboriginal perspectives into the preschool and it’s also just creating a stronger link, enabling the preschool to be engaged more with the local Aboriginal community.”

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