Connecting through Culture and Language
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 No 2, 11 March 2022, page no.23
The QTU was again the proud sponsor of the Excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education category at the 2021 Showcase Awards. Here Linda Hooper, junior secondary head of department at state finalists Caboolture State High School, describes the school’s efforts to connect through culture and language.
Caboolture State High School has come a long way in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, culture and perspectives in the school, and is very proud of where that journey has taken us.
The journey began back in 2017 with some passionate and dedicated staff who implemented the school’s first “Sorry Day” commemorations. Staff interest gained momentum and grew into an Indigenous Leadership Team, which facilitated further annual commemorations, inter-school exchanges and the introduction of Kabi Kabi language to the LOTE curriculum.
In 2019, Chinese was the only language choice in our LOTE program. The data and outcomes for our junior schooling students in the subject were not encouraging. A-C data was quite low, with less than 50 per cent of students receiving an A-C for academic achievement and up to 20 per cent of students receiving an E. Student engagement, effort and behaviour in these classes also had room for improvement.
Caboolture SHS had worked hard to increase the visibility of First Nations histories, culture and perspectives in previous years, introducing celebrations and commemorations like Sorry Day, Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week. One of the integral initiatives was the implementation of a parent and community forum called a “Wandiny” (wandin means gather together in Kabi Kabi language).
With the introduction of parent and community Wandinys each term, Caboolture SHS was able to connect with Kabi Kabi Elders and community members. It was through this process that the idea for teaching Kabi Kabi language was planted. This idea grew to fruition through collaboration and consultation with other local high and primary schools, community members and dedicated and passionate staff. An official language agreement was reached with Kabi Kabi Elders, and the Kabi Kabi language program became a positive addition to Caboolture SHS LOTE offerings in 2020. Community collaboration and consultation has been the key to getting the program up and running successfully. Another key element is the employment of cultural and language specialist teacher-aides to provide in-class support for students and teachers.
Specialist teachers were selected and approved by the community to become the lead learners in the Kabi Kabi language classrooms. The positive response from staff, students and community has been overwhelming. Caboolture SHS has seen substantial improvement in student achievement and classroom engagement. Our academic data improved dramatically, with approximately 80 per cent of students receiving an A-C grade and behaviour incidents in LOTE decreasing by 60 per cent. The Kabi Kabi language program has also had a positive impact on the wider school community. Kabi Kabi is shared and used in other subjects, staff are more confident in embedding First Nations perspectives into their classrooms, and our Indigenous and non-Indigenous students have meaningful opportunities to connect with language and culture.
This is not the end of the road. Caboolture SHS aims to build on the community connections developed through the parent and community Wandinys to develop and provide meaningful and relevant professional development for all staff and cultural experiences for students. Caboolture SHS also aims to have First Nations perspectives meaningfully embedded into all curriculum areas. The dream would be to develop the Kabi Kabi language program into the senior years of schooling and provide an educational pathway through to Year 12 and beyond.
Caboolture SHS is proud of the Kabi Kabi language program, our connections to community and the increasing visibility of First Nations histories, culture and perspectives, as well as the passionate and dedicated staff that make it all possible.