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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
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The Gungarri Language Program at Mitchell State School, Queensland

Brad Saunders
Education Queensland

The Cultural Language Program at Mitchell State School is designed to heighten the awareness of all students in relation to Indigenous culture, past and present, and improve cross-cultural understanding and attitudes towards Indigenous people.


The Cultural Language Program at Mitchell State School was developed in 2002, with the aim of including an Indigenous cultural perspective in learning languages. The program was designed to heighten the awareness of all students in relation to Indigenous culture, past and present, and in the long term, improve cross-cultural understanding and attitudes towards Indigenous people.

The program was the concept of the local Gungarri Aboriginal community. A group of local Aboriginal community members identified a perceived need for a cultural program and, as a result, established a Language Committee.

A Gungarri Language Framework was developed, including planning for different Year levels, modules, activities, resources and lesson plans, which were linked in with relevant skills, processes and knowledge within each Key Learning Area. Given the nature of the program, specific links were also made to literacy skills and the Four Resource Model for the teaching of reading.

Since its implementation, the program has expanded to include years 4-8, and continues to impact positively on the attitudes and cross-cultural understandings of over 75 students, 30 staff members and numerous families within the local community. Year 8 students began their study of the program through Studies of Society and the Environment in Term 3, 2003. Students in Years 4-7 incorporated the program into their Integrated Studies unit, allowing it one lesson per week.

Under the supervision of teaching staff, local volunteers (members of the Gungarri Language Program Committee) deliver activities and learning experiences for all students that involves the learning of different aspects of the Gungarri Language, including reading, writing, viewing and speaking. The activities have also included drawing, painting, dancing, drama, oral presentations, and the construction of a Gungarri Language dictionary. A field trip to the 'Yumba' (a place of local significance) was conducted, and local elders visited the school as guest speakers, sharing skills and local knowledge.

The program is one of the first Cultural Language programs developed and implemented by an Education Queensland school, and is an excellent example of an innovative approach by a school to meet the needs of all of its students and the local community, according to Amanda Stirling, Principal of Mitchell State School.

The Cultural Language Program reflects the purpose of Education Queensland's Destination 2010 action plan for implementing changes to State education. The Cultural Language Program is designed to meet the needs of different students, who are pursuing high levels of educational attainment, by preparing them to be active and reflective citizens, and building their confidence in their relationships with other cultures in Australia and abroad.

Outcomes for students have been extremely positive. They have allowed for the increased understanding of Indigenous history and culture through the learning of local language, and have resulted in:

  • Improved literacy results across years 4-8
  • A reduction in behaviour management referrals
  • Improved self-esteem and pride of Aboriginal students within the school
  • Improved cross-cultural awareness of all students and staff involved in the program
  • Improved public perception of the State school
  • Improved links with the local community, particularly the Aboriginal community.
The Cultural Language Program at Mitchell State School has allowed Aboriginal students not just to learn their own language in an academic context, but to feel pride and a sense of identity in the knowledge that the wider community values their culture.


For further information contact Amanda Stirling, Principal, Mitchell State School, tel: 07 4623 8888.


KLA

Subject Headings

Aboriginal peoples
Aboriginal students
Case studies
Curriculum planning
Educational planning
Language and languages
Languages other than English (LOTE)
School and community
School culture