• Jack Ward

Pilot program explores Indigenous culture

Updated: Dec 19, 2021

Published in The Ararat Advocate, Ararat's weekly newspaper published by West Vic News Pty Ltd.


ARARAT North Primary School has launched a unique pilot program to introduce its junior school to Indigenous language and culture.


Students have experienced their second class this week with Aunty Marjorie Pickford, which is the culmination of work by classroom teacher, Luke Kane.


Mr Kane has worked closely with the Department of Education’s central highlands office to find the right people for the program which, to his knowledge, is not replicated anywhere else in the region.


“From exploration within the department, we've managed to find someone who speaks the language that was on this land, at Ararat North, and they are the Wotjobaluk People and they speak Wergaia,” he said.


The pilot is a dream come true for the classroom teacher who has been inspired by his time in the Kimberley, where he went to school and grew up understanding the importance of Indigenous culture.


“I'm going to do my best to pass it on to the local students and local schools… I want to make sure that we understand what was here,” he said.


Students participating in the four-week pilot are beginning to understand greetings and animal names in Wergaia, and some customs and law.


Student, Aiza, said she has liked learning about the language of the Wotjobaluk People and matching greetings with English.


Wotjobaluk Elder, Aunty Marjorie Pickford, has been conducting the lessons via video conferencing. She hopes to visit the children in-person in the coming weeks.


Mr Kane is optimistic that it is the beginning of an exciting opportunity for not only Ararat North, but also other schools who can be connected to Elders in a similar fashion.


“I would love to see this go further, setting up the right people with the right schools so they can engage in authentic language and culture class,” he said.


Ararat North will evaluate the effectiveness of the program following the four-week pilot to understand how it can be continued and expanded next year.

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