Students connect with language heartland PDF Print E-mail
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Maisie Wintinna with students learning Pitnantjatjara
Nine years ago, Aboriginal parents involved with Carlton Primary School, Port Augusta, let it be known that they'd had enough of their children learning German as a second language. Parents, teachers and pupils were united in their enthusiasm to make the two Western Desert dialects, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara and the Adnyamathanha language available through the LOTE scheme. Initially all students could choose between German, Pitjantjatjara and Adnyamathanha. Gradually the numbers of students choosing German declined until four years ago the subject was dropped as a curriculum choice.

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Adnyamathanha students.
Carlton now has an indigenous enrolment of 90% and its pupils come with a wide diversity of language experience. For some, the classes are part of an introduction to their history and culture, while others are learning to write the language they speak in their homes. With such a broad range of experience to cater for, the language teachers are challenged to accommodate the needs of the individual pupils while relating studies to the curriculum.

The school's language experts, Maisie Wintinna (Yankunyt¬jatjara/ Pitjantjatjara) and Clara  Johnson, (Adnyamathanha) enjoy the challenge. Maisie says "It is satisfying to hear the kids having a go at using language. I feel good at the end of the lesson to know that the students have enjoyed their time with me. When I see them outside of class. they greet me in language and ask when the next lesson is. We are constantly making our own resources. The children like to make them and use those made by past language students."

The classes are held once a week for children in the lower primary school, increasing to twice weekly for the older pupils.

Teaching staff utilize the resources and support provided by Greg Wilson, the Aboriginal Languages Curriculum Officer, and are involved in regular conferences with a network of other program coordinators and teachers.

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Chris Matthews working with Adnyamathanha students.
Port Augusta is an industrial city almost 300 kms north of Adelaide. It has a population of approximately 14,000, of whom around 2,000 residents are Aboriginal. Being the point at which the main North-South and East-West highways cross and the service centre for the North and West of the state, there is much intraregional movement between it and the Aboriginal lands.

A highlight of the school year for the Carlton students, is a 1,000 km excursion to the town of Mimili, in Pitjantjatjara territory. Here the children spend four days of cultural enrichment, welcomed by the community people who share with them Dreaming stories and contact with the significant sites of their country. They are joined in the outdoor classes by children from the Mimili school. Back home in Carlton, students enjoy ongoing interaction with different sections of their local community.

The retirement village and Hospital are on the visiting list, while local Aboriginal organisations support the students' artistic efforts by displaying their work in offices and clinics.

Local elders who attend the program's classes and excursions, have strong feelings about their own connection with the language.

"We weren't allowed to have our language at school. Missionaries at Nepa Bunna said 'You have to stop speaking your language.' The three schools I went to wouldn't allow it. But we were talking language at home with my parents, brothers and sisters. I've still got the language in me, that's why I keep it going at Carlton." (Clara Johnson-Adnyamathanha elder.) For these elders, the great satisfaction gained through their teaehing of language and culture, is reinforced by the enthusiasm of their young pupils.

Anangu kutjupa tjutangku ngayula Pitjantjatjara wangkanyi, ngayulu palunjatjananya kulini, munu malaku wangkanyi. (When people talk to me in Pitjantjatjara I can understand them and talk back to them.) Lisa.

Elders, teachers and parents take pride in the knowledge that they are training their students to pass on language as teachers.

For more information about the school and its program, contact: Chris Matthews.
Carlton Primary School
Rupert St.Port Augusta
S.A. 5700.
08 8642 2281
08 8642 3222