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St Joseph's Walgett - Yuwaalaraay Stage 1-3

'One of the most positive things for me is the language itself with the students and how they indulge in learning it. It’s used in basically everyday activities at the school and outside the school. If I run into one of my students down the street they don’t say "Hello JB" or "How you going JB". I’m greeted in the traditional Aboriginal way of it, saying, "Yaama JB". And if I say "Gabagaba nyinda?" they’ll say, "Gaba" back to me. So basically I think that’s really great.'

John Brown, Community Language Teacher 17/11/05

Introducing the Aboriginal Language Team

  • John Brown, Community Language Teacher
  • Karen Flick, Community Language Teacher
  • Brother John Giacon, Linguist
  • Brother John Wright, Principal

Background

The Yuwaalaraay/Gamilaraay Language Program at St Joseph’s Walgett is one of the most established in NSW. Brother John Giacon has worked as a linguist on the program since 1994 and Brother John Wright has been instrumental in the program as Principal of the school for approximately nine years. John Brown has been a Community Language Teacher on the program for nine years and Karen Flick for three. A comprehensive overview of the school's language program was released in 2005 in NSW.

To see a copy of this report please click on the link below.

'The report that Dr Pat Cavanagh did I think was one of the most positive things to come out of it.'

John Brown, CLT, St Joseph’s Walgett, 17/11/05

'Yeah from the Review I thought that was a good thing that actually happened. But there’s some stuff in the Review and some recommendations as well throughout the Review that maybe us as the language program, or language workers at the school, need to really zone in and focus on those recommendations, which goes back to just keeping people aware of what’s happening regarding language in the school. Like it’s not the school’s language, it’s the community’s and everyone needs to be involved in that or updated in that process.'

Karen Flick, CLT, St Joseph's Walgett, 18/11/05

John Brown, CLT, describes the history of the Yuwaalaraay Language Program. John Brown has been teaching since 1996.

'Back in 1996 Brother John Giacon approached me and asked me if I was interested in learning and teaching the Yuwaalaraay program. I told him I would. I said that’d be a challenge, something out of the ordinary, something I don’t know. I’d just left a job that I’d had and I thought this’d be a completely different turn around, a different challenge, a different look at what happens in the community and a look back into the reality, I suppose, of schooling and how I might cope with that. I’ve been involved with it for 9 years and been teaching it for 9 years, so I think if I didn’t like it I would’ve gone a long time ago.'

They started by only teaching the Aboriginal children on an irregular basis.

'[At the start] we just started with the Aboriginal children. There wasn’t as many Aboriginal children as there is now at our school. There might have been 3 or 4, might be 8 at the most, I suppose, in any one class. There wasn’t very many in any one class and we weren’t starting from Kindy to Year 6. We might do Year 6 today and we might do Year 3 next week. They weren’t done on a regular type basis.'

Since 1998 the language has been gradually implemented through the school, in a sequential manner.

'It is still being implemented into Year 6 and that won’t happen until 2006 but when Brother John Wright took over the job as the principal of the school, about 7 or 8 years ago, he slowly brought it around over those years to implement it into all the school. But he did it on a basis that this year we start with Kindergarten and K–1 and next year we’ll introduce the language into Year 1. So that the children that are learning it in Year 1 and K–1, are going to know a little bit when they get into Year 2. When it goes to Year 2, they’re going to know a little bit more, Year 5 then so on until it gets up. So by the time they get to Year 6 all of these children are going to know some aspects of Aboriginal language and of course they’ll get more in Year 6 where, of course, they’ll go to a high level.'

Since 2002 Stage 1 has been taught by one teacher and Stages 2–3 by another teacher.

St Joseph’s Walgett has been involved in working with the Board since 2004. Because staff changes are inevitable the school has aimed at putting in place structures so that the language program will not only be sustainable into the future but will also expand.

St. Joseph's Walgett Stage 3 students
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Yanaaya Baayaami-biyaay!
Go with God!

Congratulations to the entire team of St Joseph’s Walgett, who were awarded a Highly Commended prize in the National Achievement in the School Improvement category by Teaching Australia in the 2006 National Awards for Quality School. They received the award from The Honourable Julie Bishop in a ceremony in Parliament House in February 2006. St Joseph’s Walgett has been a forerunner in NSW in establishing their Yuwaalaraay Language Program and this award is well deserved!

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