Burnett schools separated by distance, united by language
TWO state schools separated by distance and council boundaries are united by family, language and culture.
Cherbourg State School's new principal, Andrew Shaw, who commenced this term, visited Eidsvold State School last week - continuing the development of a relationship that began in 2017 - after the Eidsvold school sought advice on starting its own Wakka Wakka language program.
The connection is also personal: Eidsvold principal Preston Parter and Mr Shaw have known each other many years and family connections run deep between the predominantly indigenous towns.
"Historically and traditionally we've been linked - since time immemorial I suspect, 60,000 years. Now it's more formalised within the youth and schooling system and the language and the cultural programs that we're sharing," Mr Shaw said.
"It's about seeing what a good school down the road is doing. There are other schools on this journey - let's share what's working well and celebrate indigenous languages as a living language."
Another connection: step inside the gates of either school and you'll be greeted with ngara, the Wakka Wakka word for "hello", in a practical illustration of the concept of "living language".
During his visit, Mr Shaw sought advice on next year's rollout in Cherbourg of the Wakka Wakka language as a reportable LOTE (language other than English) offering.
This year, the Wakka Wakka language appeared on Eidsvold students' report cards for the first time.
Although an assessable subject under the curriculum, it was assigned an overview of student achievement - not an A-E grading.
"It's a strength-based statement to our families, telling parents what their kids have learnt and are capable of," Mr Parter said.
Working together, the principals have grand plans for indigenous languages in the wider Burnett region.
"If we look to the future, and this is all big-ideas stuff and nothing is set in stone, but could you imagine having a language symposium based in our schools here where we pull in all schools with what we're doing with indigenous languages?" Mr Shaw said.
"It doesn't have to be in the Kimberleys or the Torres Strait - we can do it here, look at best practice here, and that helps with pulling funding together.
"The big picture is the revitalisation of language and teaching our indigenous kids, but also our non-indigenous, as part of the process of better understanding indigenous culture.
"There would be real power in that."