If an Aboriginal language was taught in every Australian classroom, not only would the languages survive, but break down barriers between cultures, generations and communities, students at The Armidale School were told.
At the school’s annual NAIDOC assembly on Thursday morning (31 August), Anaiwan man Brad Widders said language was more than just a verbal form of communication.
“Language and dialects describe country, custom and family relationships, it is how they maintain connection with their ancestors, land and the law. If every young person had to learn their local Aboriginal language, so many barriers would break down,” he said.
With NAIDOC Week falling during school holidays, the assembly focused on this year’s NAIDOC theme ‘Our Languages Matter’ and was an opportunity for the 18 Indigenous students at TAS to celebrate their language, country and identity.
“From the time I was first dropped off at TAS I was sucked into many activities that got my mind off homesickness, everything from rugby, cadets, boarding house activities and getting into a bit of strife with mates. I soon switched on realised the opportunity I had and grabbed it with both hands,” said Brad’s nephew Bailey Widders from a speech he will also present at a national graduation ceremony of Year 12 Australian Indigenous Education Foundation scholarship recipients in Sydney tonight.
“As I got used to being surrounded by unfamiliar people in unfamiliar surroundings, I started to get stuck into school and the extra curricular activities. I became a leader in the cadet program and along with attending the AIEF ADF Work Experience program, I decided to set my sights on joining the Army and look forward to pursuing this dream and starting my career in the Army next year. “
Aboriginal student Edward Pitt and non-Indigenous student Hugh Worsley talked about the rewards of the long-standing program with Minimbah School, in which TAS students spend one lunchtime each week buddy-reading and playing with students at Minimbah.
The 18 students then performed four dances, taught by members of Tamworth’s Gomeroi Dance company. TAS also hosted a special dinner for its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their families that night.