Yiyili Community School has 70 students and is located half way between Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, home of the Gooniyandi people. Gooniyandi language learning is compulsory at the school from Pre-primary to Year 10. The school is swiftly developing the structure of its Languages program to meet the 2 hours notional time as recommended by the School Curriculum and Standards Authority. Having full-time Gooniyandi Teachers allows for frequency of 15-30 minute lessons of 4 times a week ranging in total from 60-120 minutes per week. The language program also provides opportunities for learning on Country through regular excursions and bush trips to learn language out of the classroom and in context, and to deepen cultural awareness.
Two Yiyili School staff members are currently undertaking a two-year Aboriginal Languages Training course with the Department of Education and showing rapid improvement in their language and pedagogical skills, which is having an immediate positive impact on student outcomes and level of engagement. Both use a common Language Planner tool, designing units around chosen language texts. From such texts they extract sentence patterns and keywords, and focus on developing students’ language awareness, providing valuable opportunities to reflect on L1 (Kriol), L2 (Standard Australian English) and the home language of Gooniyandi. The school has employed a part-time Teacher Linguist who provides valuable wrap-around support in planning, implementation, language awareness and the checking of language accuracy.
The Gooniyandi language is critically endangered but the school and community is doing great work at keeping the language alive. It has status as a subject and timetabled every day from Monday-Thursday, with Friday being the special day for bush trips and camps. Posters and signage offer a language rich environment both in the dedicated Gooniyandi room and throughout the school. There has been a concerted effort to create a linguistic landscape in the community through strategies such as permanent signage (physical landscape), bilingual telephone message and a Gooniyandi hip hop song as the school bell (audio landscape) and use of the local language on the school Facebook page (digital landscape).
All seven local communities are passionate about having the language taught in the school and Elders provide valuable advice and support to Gooniyandi Teachers, reinforcing the valuable link between community and school. Yiyili Community would like to acknowledge the generous support of WA Culture and Arts Connecting to Country Grant and the Wyemando Bequest for funds that help the children get out on Gooniyandi country and practice their language and culture.
Do you know any words in Gooniyandi? How about starting with the names of each class at Yiyili Community School: lombardi (small), wawanyi (goanna), thirroo (kangaroo), garnbirra (eagle) and galamooda (bush turkey). Now say it, write it, tweet it - give power to the language by using it!