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Learning to teach language skills to the next generation

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Six Aboriginal women dressed in black with bright green sashes draped around their necks and one Aboriginal child stand on a flat surface with grass and trees, a car and buildings in the background. Most of them hold a framed certificate in their hands.
Graduating with a Certificate IV in Early Language and Literacy at the Umuwa Trade Training Centre: Ngila Mungkuri (Indulkana), Nara Shilling (Mimili), Maria Campbell (Mimili), Daisy Henry (Indulkana), Yanyi Umala (Mimili), Jennifer Whiskey (Indulkana). Zaavan Fielding (Mimili) was not in attendance.
29 Nov 2017

Dedicated to improving the lives of the next generation, 7 graduates from Mimili and Indulkana in the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands of South Australia are now qualified Aboriginal Education Workers (AEW).

These 6 women and 1 man have successfully completed a Certificate IV in Early Language and Literacy (EL&L), a course run by the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF).The course equips graduates with both the practical and theoretical skills to better assist children to develop early language and pre-literacy skills across the preschool and early schooling years.

The annual graduation ceremony held at the Umuwa Trade Training Centre on 15 November 2017 awarded the newly qualified Aboriginal Education Workers their certifications. This is the first APY graduation to award Anangu staff with the Certificate IV qualification in EL&L.

Graduate Maria Campbell from Mimili said she was excited and very proud to have finished.

‘I liked how it was taught and that we got to do things not just listen,’ Maria said.

‘I also liked how we got lots of support through it all. We need more Anangu teachers helping in class. There are so many [children] that need extra support. The EL&L course helped me know what to do with the kids when I am in class. I do Tommy Turtle writing, Syllable Stick and teach them to read and write. All teachers should know those skills so they can help the kids, too.’

In the APY Lands, participants learn strategies to help children develop skills across English and the local languages of Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara. This contributes to strong local engagement and understanding of core language and literacy concepts.

Another graduate, Ngila Mungkuri from Indulkana, said Pitjantjatjara language is an important part of the community.

‘The little kids [in the preschool] learn better when they listen and learn in Pitjantjatjara,’ Ngila said.

‘Me and the teacher [Gina], we work closely together so that the kids can learn ideas in Pitjantjatjara and so they can also learn [those ideas] in English. It’s important that we work together. It’s important that the kids see that; that we guide the kids together.’

By working closely and collaboratively with enthusiastic AEWs, the EL&L program aims to help build long-term capacity within the communities and work towards closing the gap in education disadvantage.

‘I am doing lots of activities and games in class in Pitjantjatjara, teaching them to read, know sounds and break up syllables,’ Maria said.

Ngila said that it’s important that the AEWs tell the kids that they need to come to school to listen and learn.

‘We encourage the kids, praise them and tell them the good way to become strong, to stay healthy and to be ninti (clever),’ Ngila said.

‘It’s important that the kids learn more and more … become ninti pulka (very clever). When they finish school, they will work in our schools, in our shops, in our clinics. They will grow strong and know to look after their mums, dads and grandmothers.’

Find out more

Ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children get a good education is a priority of the Australian Government.

Since the latter half of 2014, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has funded the ALNF to deliver the course to Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants in Mimili and Indulkana and provide follow-up mentoring. This enables classroom teachers, AEWs and participating community members to work together to help children develop a solid foundation in language and literacy.

In addition, the Department of Education and Child Development works closely with the ALNF, through the schools, to ensure that this program is a success.