Bruthen Primary School in the Gippsland Region, introduced a Gunai-Kurnai Culture Program throughout the school in second semester 2017, led by Nicole Hood, a qualified Koorie school teacher from the Gippsland community. With ten Koorie students and a total school population of only forty six, Bruthen is one of the newest schools to teach a Victorian Koorie Language, in this case through a broader Cultural Studies Program, rather than a formal LOTE program.
The program came about following a conversation between the relatively new school principal Michelle Young and one of her school captains – a Koorie student. Michelle asked him what he would like to see at the school to make it a better school and he thought Aboriginal culture and language was what was missing. Michelle Young put the proposition to the school and there was unanimous agreement. With KESO Brad Kenny’s assistance, Michelle met with a group of Community Elders to seek their support, and Brad Kenny spoke with families and other community members about introducing a cultural program at the school. Koorie and non-Koorie families were then invited to a school ‘Community Yarn’ as they wanted everyone on board and involved. At the Community Yarn event, ideas were gathered for what was to form the foundation of their program, a 12-month plan – what they wanted taught and how they wanted it taught.
Classroom teacher Nicole Hood leads the program. Nicole was keen to take up the opportunity, in particular, to be able to learn more, and be involved in teaching language as part of the proposed cultural program. Students have learnt basic language – common animals, greetings, numbers, counting and colours, and the weekly school assembly provides an opportunity for plenty of language sharing, practice and use.
Principal Michelle Young is keen for all students and staff to have a deeper cultural and historical understanding – ‘to know the right stories, the true stories’ of the region. Students are showing genuine compassion in their learning and are greatly concerned about what they learn. and teachers are applying new cultural understandings into their planning across the whole curriculum. Michelle believes that cultural studies ideally fit across the whole curriculum.
As for the students, ‘They love it!’ says Michelle. ‘Yay it’s Thursday, Cultural Studies Day!’ they say to her.
Gunai Kurnai Language and Culture studies at Bruthen PS; photos courtesy of Michelle Young