Funding to train Gumbaynggirr language teachers in NSW’s first Aboriginal bilingual school

Pictured at the funding announcement at Gumbaynggirr Giingana Freedom School are Principal Alanah Jack, Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell, Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh, BMNAC CEO Clark Webb and Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Arts and Regional Youth Minister Ben Franklin.

THREE Gumbaynggirr-speaking teachers will join Gumbaynggirr Giingana Freedom School (GGFS), the first bilingual Aboriginal language school in NSW, as language teachers give thanks for $185,508 in funding from the NSW Government for a new two-year pilot partnership.

Speaking at the school in Coffs Harbour, Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ben Franklin announced the funding to further support NSW Aboriginal Language revitalisation, which will offer three cadetships to Gumbaynggirr-language speakers to undertake undergraduate teaching degrees.

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Clark Webb, CEO Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation (BMNAC) a founding partner of the school, told News Of The Area, “We don’t have heaps of people who speak our language, so those who do, we need them to become teachers.

“These three new cadetships mean that student teachers will be employed at our school to teach language while they do their university teacher-training degree at the same time.”

The school opened with one Gumbaynggirr-speaking language teacher who has recently been joined by the first of the cadets, Ellie Buchanan, a local Gumbaynggirr woman.

“Speaking our language is so important to the cognitive development of our children … what we’re seeing is that language learning is really supporting their learning in general,” said Mr Webb.

“When our children are knowledgeable about their culture they do better all round at school,” he said.

Executive Director of the Aboriginal Languages Trust, Gamilaroi and Dhungutt person Clare McHugh said the bilingual school provides students with a culturally safe, strength and inquiry-based learning environment, where Gumbaynggirr children are immersed in their ancestral language.

“This is a significant achievement for the Gumbaynggirr Language and for the education of Gumbaynggirr children,” said Ms McHugh.

“Reawakening Aboriginal languages is about giving Aboriginal children their sense of belonging and investing in them for the future.”

Ms Mitchell said she was thrilled to see the wonderful work the school does teaching Gumbaynggirr language.

“The partnership helps strengthen Gumbaynggirr language and community, increasing the number of qualified teachers who can teach Gumbaynggirr Language from one to four (at the school),” Ms Mitchell said.

Mr Franklin said this new pilot partnership with BMNAC will allow cadets to undertake their study while working full-time at the Freedom School as language/learning support officers.

“I’m proud to see this funding support Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and widen knowledge sharing and learning across NSW as part of state-based efforts to support the wider use and appreciation of Aboriginal languages,” he said.

Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh said the NSW Government is committed to strengthening the use of Aboriginal language through programs such as the Aboriginal Languages Revival Program.

“This pilot will be invaluable for on-the-ground community input and will support communities in their efforts to determine and control the use, growth and cultural integrity of their languages.”

“The team is so proud of what we’ve achieved here,” said Mr Webb.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work and a lot of hurdles along the way but we’ve just been resilient, just kept at it because we know how important it is for our children and our community.”


Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh and CEO Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation (BMNAC) Clark Webb.

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