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Source: New South Wales Department of Education and Communities

Students from Weilmoringle Public School and Secretary Mark Scott test out the new NSW AECG languages app.

Students from two NSW public schools performed songs in their local first nations’ languages to mark the launch of a new app at the Museum of Contemporary Arts last night.

The app, developed by the NSW AECG, allows users to explore four NSW languages; Bundjalung, Gamilaraay, Gumbaynggirr and Wiradjuri. Paakantji and Murrawarri languages will soon be added within the app.

Students from Weilmoringle and Rowena public schools performed at the launch, demonstrating their hard work as part of in-school language programs.

Cindy Berwick, president of the NSW AECG, said she hoped the app would “contribute to Aboriginal students’ identity, sense of belonging and connection to Country”.

“This app is for our community so that we can ensure survival of our languages as First Nation peoples,” Ms Berwick said.

“But we also want non-Aboriginal people to use the app to support an understanding of and respect for Aboriginal histories and cultures and the unique place Aboriginal people hold as the oldest living culture of humanity.”

Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott said he looked forward to hearing students practising language using the app.

“One of my most memorable days as Secretary was sitting in a classroom up the North Coast, and unlike when I went to school those students in Year 7 weren’t learning French or German, but they were learning the local Aboriginal language,” Mr Scott said.

“I could see how engaging that was; not just for the Aboriginal students at the school but for all the students in the school, and how seamlessly the conversation around culture accompanied the work of studying the language and how wonderful it was that respect for local Elders was shown as local Elders were in the classroom helping to teach these languages.”

Murrawarri language educator Tom Barker was hopeful for the future while reflecting on his journey to revive the language that he’d been forbidden to speak as a child.

“Our language is awakening. We want our young children here to start knowing words and speaking and singing the songs,” Mr Barker said.

“It’s very important that all our languages are going to be strong again.”

Weilmoringle Public School principal Lisa Wright said the school community was “excited and honoured” to work with the NSW AECG on a language revival program. Tom Barker visits the school in the far north-west of the state almost weekly to work with the students.

“For a sleeping language, that really hadn’t been spoken – there are no fluent speakers around really at all – we’ve been really lucky to have these kids now pointing out things and naming them in language on a regular basis,” Mrs Wright said.

“We’re really, really proud of them.”

Download the NSW AECG languages app from the App Store and Google Play to start learning.

The NSW AECG is the peak voice for Aboriginal communities on education and training and works in partnership with the Department of Education to improve outcomes for Aboriginal learners by ensuring they have access to an education and training system that values their cultural heritage and identity and supports their learning and career development through quality teaching practices, relevant policies and strategies and inclusive curriculum and training programs.

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