Community, Languages, Schools|

Mildura Primary School started the Barkindji-Marawara Language Program in 2013 with students from Prep – 6 taught Barkindji Language, art and culture by Barkindji Traditional Owner Ivan Johnson. Each class has a unit of study.

In 2018 students are learning more about family names, working through language for weather, and names of native animals. Grades 3 and 4 will be learning about megafauna and animal names. Younger grades are making little puppets and ornaments out of clay in the program, and older students are producing art works and art pieces, working through symbols, learning what the mean and putting them into a story.Through the art program, students will also be making clay artefacts, clapsticks, didgeridoos and jewellery. The boys also learn dancing, with Peter Peterson.

Ivan Johnson learnt Barkindji growing up ‘We still had language, just never spoken it fluently. Had a lot growing up, around Mildura, NSW-side name about 20 km out, language for animals, places and plants around ..’

In late 2017, Mungo Man was ceremoniously returned to Country. Through the language program, Ivan regularly takes the students on excursions to Mungo National Park. He takes the year 3-4 up to the Wall and shows them old fireplaces and extinct animal homes. They love rolling down the dunes.

In 2015, the program was supported by the Sharing Stories Foundation (SSF) Digital Storytelling Program. As part of the SSF Digital Storytelling Program, Mildura Primary School students travelled onto Country at Lake Mungo and the Willandra Lakes System with the Sharing Stories team, Koorie Engagement Support Officer (KESO) and language teacher Ivan Johnson and met up with Warren Clark the executive officer of Mungo Joint Management. Several of the Mungo Discovery Rangers were also involved on the day, as well as senior Paakantji (Barkindji) cultural custodians Lottie Williams, Noel Johnson and Junette Mitchell who welcomed the students to Country. The excursion involved the Elders present sharing stories and an interpretation of Thalta,the story of the Red Kangaroo which tells of how the Lake Mungo and Willandra Lakes area came into being. Ivan Johnson and Narkie E Mitchell talked to the students about the Ngiyaampaa, Mathi Mathi and Barkindji versions of the Thalta story. The three language groups each have their own version of the Thalta story about creation of the Willandra Lakes area and aspects of all three have been inscribed into rock sculpture by Barkindji cultural custodian Badger Bates.

Students involved in the program will be working on the Barkindji version of the Thalta story initially, with the intention that with additional funding, in response to the wishes of senior custodians, and in collaboration with the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area, all three versions of the story will be documented as part of the SSF Digital Storytelling Program. 

Students documented the story-telling process using iPads and audio recorders and back at school discussed what they had learnt and, as a group, created an animated, storyboarded interpretation. They discussed how the story might most effectively be communicated through a variety of digital media techniques and commenced the creation of drawings and paintings to be animated.
For more information about the SharingStories project in Victoria click here.  

Mildura Primary Schools students learning about and digitising  Thalta, the story of the Red Kangaroo with the Sharing Stories Foundation and Traditional Owners in 2015.

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