“We were slowly trying to get something in the curriculum that involved Aboriginal culture, and our best way in was through a language class,” said Daniel Giles, Aboriginal Officer at Renmark High School, about the introduction of a Ngarrindjeri language and culture class in year eight at the Riverland school this year.
“It’s about showing them how language affects people, rather than learning certain words… One word in Ngarrindjeri might have four different English meaning words. It’s all about context too – how you’re saying it, and who you’re saying it to.” Daniel is a Ngintait Nganguruku Yankunytjatjara man who’s worked at Renmark High School for about five years.
“Unfortunately we don’t know the local language here (Erawirung) that well, so we decided to teach Ngarrindjeri as the language, as that’s what most people around here do know. That’s something that I teach the students; the language we’re speaking is not actually from here, but it came here and everyone picked it up, so we’re going with what we know,” Daniel said.
He goes on to share that the local Aboriginal community is in the process of trying to revive the local language in the Riverland, and he hopes to be able to bring it into schools from there.
There’s been so much interest in the class they’ve had to split it to teach half the year eights in the first half the year and the other half in the second. Daniel thinks the considerable interest is because he and the Aboriginal Education Teacher, Martine Turnbull, built relationships with a lot of the students by working at some of the local primary schools in the region over the last few years.
“They know that our teaching methods are a bit different, and they find it a bit fun. Generally just knowing us and having that relationship with us helped. They’re going to learn about Aboriginal culture not just by sitting and reading a book but by doing a lot of outdoor stuff as well. There’s lot of contextual teaching.”
Hear more about the program in our podcast interview with Daniel.