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Joel Wright at Mahogany Kinder

Kindergartens say Korr (Hello) to indigenous language program

News Article Date: 
Monday, 1 August 2016

Teachers and children at our city’s kinders have taken to a new second language like a Weengkeel (Koala) to a Karrang (Gumtree).

The project began in 2015 with early years educators attending four specialised language training sessions. Stage 2 of the project has begun in 2016 with all children attending Council-run kindergartens learning local Aboriginal words and phrases.

Students are being taught by Gunditjmara man and researcher for the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages, Joel Wright.

The first series of sessions rolled out across the city in July and August.

Mr Wright said that he was impressed with the reaction the project has received.

“At a kindergarten level, I think we are the first in Victoria to embark on a project like this,” he said.

“The overall response from the kids has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic, as has been the response from the teachers.

“I’ve been astonished at how quickly the kids are able to remember the words.”

In their first sessions children learnt the Gunditjmara words for animals, body parts and greetings.

Kindergarten teachers have access to a suite of resources to help the children continue their learning ahead of their next session.

“We try and make it fun. It engages the kids, so it’s not just somebody talking to them, they have to interact,” Mr Wright said.

“The research has indicated that if you can get the kids to repeat a word 24 times over a couple of days, then it’s stuck in their head.”

As well as all of the educational and cognitive benefits which come from learning a second language, the project aims to enhance the understanding of indigenous culture in Warrnambool.

“It connects people to the place they live, in a different cultural space,” Mr Wright said.

“If you provide them with a local Aboriginal cultural perspective then it broadens their view of the place where they live.

“It’s a real credit to everyone who has been involved in the program and it certainly wouldn’t have happened without the Early Years Learning and Development team at Council.”

The project is being rolled out over a three year period with funding received through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy – Children and Schooling Programme received by council from the Australian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

If you are interested in finding out more, a selection of Gunditjmara words and phrases can be found at

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