Going the distance for dialect
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 6, 3 September 2021, page no.15
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For Sunshine Coast school teacher and QTU member Tennille Bainbridge, her journey began with a single word.
“Some time ago, I was searching online for information about my Gunggari family history and an Aunty who I was chatting with at the time passed on a word to me in language,” she said.
“Having grown up with English as my only language, I needed to find out the origins of this Gunggari word to help me better understand a number of family stories.
“From searching for the meaning of that one word, my curiosity for the Gunggari language really started to grow. As I carried out more of my own research into Gunggari language it became apparent just how little of it is being spoken nowadays.
“Less than two per cent of schools in Queensland currently have a formal teaching program for Indigenous language, and with only a handful of fluent Gunggari speakers around today, it was very apparent that I had a role to play in keeping the Gunggari language alive and helping people to understand its meaning and importance.”
Tennille enrolled in a Masters Degree course in Indigenous languages in January 2020, and one of the requirements of the course was teaching language on Country.
In October last year, Tennille travelled from her home on the Sunshine Coast to the Western Downs district of the Maranoa region in Queensland to complete her required teaching hours. She has since returned four more times.
“I was hooked from my first visit to the region,” she said.
“Hearing about the hard work that Elders and community members had undertaken in the area to establish a formal language learning program in local schools and then seeing the effort that people like Des Crump were putting into delivering those programs, it really motivated me to keep going back."
Tennille, a member of the QTU’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education committee Gandu Jarjum, and Des, who is a Dhinawun Consultancy educational consultant, now visit four schools across Mitchell and Roma each term to deliver Gunggari language lessons to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students from prep to year 10.
“As we all know, kids love to have fun and that element is central to the way we deliver our lessons. Painting, drawing and singing in language are very much a part of what we do with the students, and it’s been terrific to see how much enjoyment they get from this program,” Tennille said.
“We were recently awarded a First Languages Australia grant to help expand our language teaching to the wider community.
“This is an important next step in helping to build capacity within these communities to continue teaching Gunggari language into the future.”
Hopefully it’s one more stepping stone on a long and very important journey.