Aboriginal language programs available for more schools and kinders

Schools and early childhood services across Victoria are teaching Aboriginal languages with the support of Aboriginal teachers, Elders and communities.

38 Victorian Traditional Owner language groups have been identified. Currently, there are 11 schools across the state teaching an Aboriginal language, with 29 early childhood services set to deliver an Aboriginal language program next year.

Bruthen Primary School students and teacher Nikki Hood hold an Aboriginal flag
Bruthen Primary School students and teacher Nikki Hood hold an Aboriginal flag

Teaching Aboriginal languages and cultural perspectives in early childhood, schools and tertiary education supports the vision of Marrung Aboriginal Education Plan 2016 – 2026.

The Victorian School of Languages (VSL) recently commenced delivery of the Certificate III in Learning an Endangered Aboriginal Language. The Certificate III will lead on to a Certificate IV in Teaching an Endangered Aboriginal Language and help build the Aboriginal language teacher workforce. Students undertaking the Certificate III will work with Elders and the community on transcription, translation and language reclamation activities.

The VSL is working with partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI), the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL) and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA).

Aboriginal education in Gippsland

In Gippsland, Paynesville Primary School and Bruthen Primary School started teaching Gunai/Kurnai language and culture last year.

Bruthen Primary School students and symbols
Bruthen Primary School students and teacher Nikki Hood with Gunai/Kurnai symbols

After working with Koorie Engagement Support Officers and local Elders, seeking input from the community and their own students, Bruthen Primary School began their Gunai/Kurnai cultural studies program.

Gunai/Kurnai teacher and Traditional Owner Nikki Hood shares her language and culture with her Year 3/4 class. She says the students look forward to it every week.

'I can hear the littlies using the local language in the playground,' Nikki says. 'It's really awesome! They're very passionate about it now.'

Nikki says the students are interested in language, local sites and art. She says teaching the Gunai/Kurnai cultural studies program with her students is 'pretty special'.

'I've learned along with them,' Nikki says. 'There wasn't much in my schooling and it's come back to East Gippsland now. There's more resources.'

Michelle says the culture program is teaching important lessons to the students. ‘There’s a lot we can learn about how we can better learn about place and the signi​ficance of belonging,’ Michelle says. 

‘The sense of belonging really comes from understanding your place. It’s nice that all kids develop that – especially for our Koorie kids.’

‘It gives them a sense of pride in their culture and feel proud of who they are. I think that is important - everybody needs to be proud of who they are, and understand differences and acceptance of others.’

The program has been so successful that Bruthen Primary School won a Victorian Education Excellence Award for Outstanding Koorie Education.

Several other schools in Gippsland are also hoping to introduce a Gunai/Kurnai language program in the near future.

Learning across Victoria

Aboriginal perspectives in the curriculum and Aboriginal language programs support students to gain knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal culture and history. This plays an important part in developing of a strong sense of identity, pride and self-esteem for all students.

In 2004, the VCAA accredited the VCE Indigenous Languages of Victoria: Revival and Reclamation Study Design. In 2009 the AusVELS Aboriginal Languages, cultures and reclamation in Victorian schools: standards P–10 and protocols was published.

See more info at the Aboriginal Languages and Culture Victoria webpage.