Queen Visits Language Centre PDF Print E-mail
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Queen Elizabeth is enthralled as Bourke preschoolers sing for her in the gardens of the local radio station. Photo©Reuters
The attention of world media was focused on the staff and children involved in the Yandruwandha Language Program, when Queen Elizabeth included a visit to the Muda Aboriginal Corporation in Bourke on the itinerary of her recent Australian tour.

During a three hour stopover in the small outback town in northwest New South Wales, the royal party visited the Bourke Primary School and Muda Aboriginal Corporation at Radio Station 2CUZFM, before moving to Central Park, where Queen Elizabeth made a speech to the townspeople. ln her speech the Queen commented on the cultural displays that had been arranged for her by the community.

"I was interested to learn that the rich aspects of Aboriginal Culture are present in all schools programs. I have seen for myself the Aboriginal Language Class being conducted in the gardens of the radio station."

The children from the Bourke Preschool had been taken over to the grounds of the radio station, where their teachers took them through their regular Yandruwandha language class for the visitors. Queen Elizabeth listened to the preschoolers singing and joined in as the little ones counted out numbers on their fingers.

The Royal tour drew a huge influx of international and Australian media to Bourke, as well an army of security personnel.

Administrator of the Language Centre, Greg McKellar guided the Royal Party through the building, which houses both the Muda Aboriginal Corporation and Radio 2CUZFM on the one premises. Greg was pleased with the opportunity to speak with the Queen in person, but was a little overwhelmed by the extent of the preparations, and the number of media and security staff overrunning the usually quiet town.

"It was a wonderful experience, but we were all relieved when it was over, to be able to get our lives back to normal."

Although some mixed feeling came into play over the significance of the royal visit, the Bourke community made the most of the exposure to an international audience, to highlight the best of the work being done. As one teacher commented,

"It was great to see her sincere interest in the lesson and the children, and refreshing for the world media to focus positively on our little community."

queen
Queen Elizabeth
Guess who's coming to see us!!!

MOPS OUT!

Blu-tack off the cupboard doors! Four weeks is precious little notice to be given that Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth is going to drop in for afternoon tea, but that's all the time the staff at the Muda Aboriginal Corporation in Bourke had to prepare for the big event in March.

For administrator Greg McKellar, the first sign of the shock to come, was a visit to the centre by a group of official looking persons with very noticeable British accents (members of the royal protocol team), who returned a week later for a second inspection. Shortly after this, Greg took a call from the Mayor, to inform him that there was a strong possibility that the Queen may be coming to visit the centre.

"At first we couldn't believe it, but then we realised there wasn't any time to sit around stunned."

While the adults in town found themselves with their hands full, sprucing up indoors and out, the group of four year old preschoolers who were to star in a major performance on the day took everything pretty well in their stride.

A staff member noted: "It was amazing, the hype leading up to and on the day. Considering our children had little preparation time, they were fantastic. They coped with all the strangers and cameras and their first excursion from Preschool."

With their song 'Kooka Williwilli' well rehearsed for the day, the young performers were able to make some observations of their own on the proceedings. These included a discussion of the Queen's choice of clothing. "The Queen wore a beautiful blue dress,"said Zac and "she had a blue hat" added Alex.

They noted her attention during the performance. "She was counting out her fingers." Samantha reported. And they coped with the blaze of publicity. "There were heaps of cameras."- Mark. But it was perhaps young Chloe who summed up the highlight of the event for the majority of the young performers- "I saw myself on TV."

"I'm Stella Guttie, the Aboriginal language teacher at Muda Aboriginal Corporation. It was a pleasure to have Queen Elizabeth I look on as I taught the afternoon Pre-school class. During the class she stood on the right hand side for about four minutes, then came and stood between myself and Theresa Johnson, the linguist here at the language centre. I looked up, and took one glance at her, and she asked what was the Aboriginal word for kangaroo. As I was busy with the class going through the Yandruwandha numbers,Theresa told her the name. I also heard her say the nlumbers are very difficult to pronounce. I did not have time to have any conversation, only a quick glimpse, and a smile, but it was worth every second. If I were to wish anything, and that wish would have been my father the custodian of the Yandruwandha language was here to participate in the Royal visit, but I know in my heart he was there through those Royal moments, in spirit"

"I think the children knew the Queen was someone special but it was the teachers who were most excited.

On the day of the Queen's visit, the children were fantastic. The Queen stood for a while watching before she approached the group. At this time Stella was busy holding the flashcards and teaching the numbers, so when the Queen asked what the name for Kangaroo was in the Yandruwandha language I told her it was 'tjukurru'".

Theresa Johnston. Linguist with Muda Aboriginal Corporation for three years.