Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

Handing on the Teaching of Kaurna Language to Kaurna Youth

Academic journal article Australian Aboriginal Studies

Handing on the Teaching of Kaurna Language to Kaurna Youth

Article excerpt

Abstract: Kaurna, the language of the Adelaide Plains, has been taught now for many years. It was introduced into Kaurna Plains Early Childhood Centre in 1989/90 and Kaurna Plains School in 1992 and has been taught there ever since. It has also been taught in a range of other schools and institutions to children of all ages, adults, members of the Kaurna community and to the public at large. By far the biggest hurdle confronting efforts to implement Kaurna language programs has been finding the teachers. Teaching languages requires special skills, and teaching a language, such as Kaurna, that is being reclaimed from written sources poses additional challenges, not least being the need to learn the language first and to be flexible and creative in developing new words and expressions where needed. It has been especially difficult to find young Kaurna people to take on the teaching. One who has risen to the challenge is Jack Kanya Buckskin, who started out working on Kaurna language projects, which included recording Kaurna words and phrases. He began attending Kaurna language classes at the Living Kaurna Cultural Centre, Warriparinga, then taught these classes in 2008 and in 2009 took full responsibility for these and other Kaurna language classes at Kaurna Plains School. This paper reflects on the positives that flow from taking on the teaching role, as well as some of the difficulties faced.

A brief history of the efforts to teach Kaurna

The Kaurna language was first introduced into Kaurna Plains School by then Principal Ngarrpadla Alitya Wallara Rigney, assisted by Nelson Pundonya Meyu Varcoe, in 1992 following several workshops in the previous two years. It was introduced into Elizabeth City High School and Elizabeth West Adult Campus in 1994 as a Stage 1 (i.e. Year 11) subject and to various other locations since then. Kaurna was one of the first Aboriginal languages to be taught through the Australian Indigenous Languages Framework project (SSABSA 1996). A team approach was employed. Aboriginal language specialists Cherie Warrara Watkins and Nelson Varcoe were employed to work alongside teacher Jennifer Simpson and linguist Rob Amery. At Kaurna Plains School Cherie was assisted by non-Aboriginal teachers James Parkin and Kevin Duigan. Classroom teachers at Kaurna Plains School were also involved in the teaching of Kaurna within their own classes. Notable among these teachers were the late Ngarrpadla Alma Ridgway and Eileen Wanganeen, daughter of Ngarrpadla Alitya Rigney. Within a few years Nelson moved into other employment and in 2008 Cherie retired after many years teaching at Kaurna Plains School, Para West Adult Campus, Tauondi College and Salisbury North Primary School.

There is a strong demand for teachers of Kaurna language. Many schools in the Adelaide metropolitan area would implement programs if they could find teachers, preferably Kaurna people. A number of requests for teachers have been brought to the attention of Kaurna Warra Pintyandi (KWP) since it was established in 2002 (see Amery and Rigney 2007 for a discussion of the role of KWP, a Kaurna language planning group based at The University of Adelaide that consists of a partnership of Kaurna people, linguists, researchers and teachers). But it has been difficult to find teachers of Kaurna and especially difficult to find young people who are prepared to take the task on.

Jack Buckskin was the first young Kaurna person to take on the teaching of Kaurna in multiple programs when he embraced teaching in several programs concurrently in 2008. However, it should be noted that Cherylynne Catanzaritti, daughter of Cherie Warrara Watkins, took up teaching Kaurna language in the early years (Reception to Year 2) at Smithfield Plains Primary School (now Mark Oliphant College) in 1996 and is still involved in that program (Mark Oliphant College B-12 News, Term 4, 2011, pp.2, 4). Cherylynne was a student of Kaurna language at Para West Adult Campus from 1994. …

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