Spotlight On – Wiradjuri Language Program, Parkes, NSW
Lionel Lovett, President of the local Aboriginal Education
Consultative Group (AECG) and Wiradjuri language teacher
at Parkes Public School, teaches language at the school
he attended as a student himself. When he was a student
he learnt about language and culture through books. Now,
language is visible and alive in every classroom, around the
school and across the community. “Language is all around
... The names of farms, the names of creeks. You can see
it. The words have to have a meaning, and with meaning
comes appreciation and understanding”, says Lionel.
A soundscape of eight Aboriginal languages from southeast Australia was heard by thousands of visitors from around the world who attended barrangal dyara (skin and bones). These languages represented the groups from which the objects within the Garden Palace came. The soundscape included the following Wiradjuri words spoken by high school students Michael, Nicayden and Kyah from the Parkes community:
winhanga-y-gunha-nha gayaa (remember the shovel)
winhanga-y-gunha-nha wargang (remember the canoe)
winhanga-y-gunha-nha bugang (remember the necklace)
In September, 15 students and 10 teachers, including
Michael, Nicayden and Kyah, were invited by Kaldor Public
Art Projects to witness firsthand their contribution to the
artwork installation. While in Sydney, and as part of the
Public Program for the installation, students spoke with
Jonathan Jones to a full audience about their experience of
learning language at the Royal Botanic Garden.
The trip highlighted to students and teachers the scale of
the project, and the significance of being able to contribute.
“We didn’t realise the enormity of the project, the scale
of the work” says Lionel. “It was tricky getting everyone
together from the different schools, but in the end we
thought ‘wow, look what we’ve done’. It definitely put a
feather in our cap.”
To learn more about Wiradjuri language in Parkes, watch ABC Open’s Our Mother Tongue: Wiradjuri.