Gambay - Languages map

Teachers' Notes

When learning and teaching first Australian languages, it is vital to work alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, groups and communities in your school community.

Have conversations with

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language centres.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff in your school.
  • Aboriginal families and Torres Strait Islander families in your school community.
  • Indigenous Education Workers in your district, region, state and/or jurisdiction.
  • Local organizations and groups in your area including libraries museums and cultural centres
  • Local reconciliation groups.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural centres.
  • Indigenous Education Consultative Committees in your state.

Ways to connect

  • Talk to local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members about what kind of relationships they would like to have with the school and the role they see for language in that relationship.
  • Use the languages map as a stimulus to link with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and talk about their connections to country and languages across Australia.
  • Consider creative ways to allow people the opportunities to share their knowledge, stories and languages. For example, display the languages map in a prominent place in the school where community can see and engage with it.

Things to consider

  • Do your own research and find out what you can about the local languages situation in your area.
  • Take responsibility for your own learning and education with regard to our shared history. Don’t expect Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people to have all the answers for you.
  • Find out about past policies and practices and how they have impacted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples and their languages in the local area / region / state.
  • Look for stories about people’s experiences with regard to language and talk to people about their own.
  • Understand that our complex shared history leads to better understandings about the language situation today.
  • Be aware of the local traditional custodians in your area as well as local community people and elders who have long histories in the area with strong connections.
  • Avoid assuming the language backgrounds of First Australians in your school community.
  • Get to know people first and communicate openly and genuinely.
  • Language can be a sensitive issue for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly for those who have been dispossessed of their country, their language and their families. Tread lightly and discuss ways of communicating in respectful ways.
  • Different locations around the country will have different levels of awareness about the languages spoken (both past and present).
  • There will be different ways of talking about language in different places across the country. For example, people may talk about traditional Indigenous language in terms of ‘lingo’, ‘tribal way’ and how language belongs to country. Terms like ‘home language’, ‘Koori/Murri way’, or connections to particular towns e.g Cherbourg talk may be used to explain new language varieties of English such as creoles and other varieties of English.
  • Give people time to think, reflect and discuss the ideas about language in terms of our complex shared histories. It may take many discussions before you come to a shared understanding about the language situation in your local area.
  • Recognise and value the oral traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and groups of the past, the present and for the future. It is often not written down.
  • It is important to recognise that payment for language services may be appropriate.

Further information for teachers and communities interested in starting a local language program at their school.