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Student book project an effort to preserve local language

Central Regional TAFE (CRTAFE) students have created a fully illustrated children’s book in the Wajarri language as part of a student project to complete their training at TAFE.

Twelve Aboriginal students enrolled in a Certificate II in Leadership and Certificate III in Business at the Geraldton Campus commenced work on the project in April 2018 as part of an assessment which required students to participate in a team project.

CRTAFE Business Lecturer and one of three lecturers overseeing the project, Rebecca Higgins said it was important to engage the students in something that was important to them. After some team collaboration they established that the students wanted to do something that would benefit young children whilst also establishing a sense of culture and identity.

After researching their ideas they noticed that they were not able to find any books in the Wajarri language suitable for children in the early education age group and commenced to develop the concept for the illustrated children’s book.

“The book is called ‘Poems for our Mayus’. The word mayus is the Wajarri term for children” Ms Higgins said.

“The book came to life with each student having to identify a word familiar to them in Wajarri language. From there, students developed a poem around the Wajarri word, but the poem itself was written in the English language”.

“The students envisaged that the book would be available in classrooms and day-care centres one day, enabling Aboriginal children to identify with the book and that it would create a sense of pride in their language and culture”.

The book is illustrated by Geraldton artist Shah Jackey and includes phonetic spelling throughout as the students wanted non-Aboriginal parents, teachers and children to learn the Wajarri pronunciations.

Consultation with the Irra Wangga Language Centre in Bundiyarra took place early on, including a pronunciation workshop, which prepared students to read their books and also reinforced identity and connection to Wajarri language.

CRTAFE Management Lecturer Daron Keogh said students were able to learn important skills whilst working towards completing their qualifications.

“The level of leadership demonstrated by the Aboriginal students throughout this course has highlighted a strong desire for the next generation of Aboriginal children to maintain the sense

of who they are, where they come from and where they are going” Mr Keogh said.

“This desire is best reflected in the book’s back cover dedication to ‘our Yamatji’. Poems for our Mayus has created peace of mind knowing that Aboriginal people past and present will feel proud that their language is being kept alive” he said.

Caelene Bartlett, Central Regional TAFE’s Senior Aboriginal Consultant said it was important for CRTAFE to have a welcoming and flexible approach to training to ensure students succeeded in achieving their qualifications.

“The lecturers over-seeing this project, upon seeing how important this idea was to the students, completely adjusted the teaching plan that they had prepared. This allowed the students to drive the project and see their vision through” Ms Bartlett said.

“It is great to see our Aboriginal students so engaged in their studies. The process of collaboration between the lecturers, students and Aboriginal mentors who assisted during

class time, has made the project such as success and a positive learning experience for all involved” she said.

An initial book launch will take place at 11.00am, Thursday 13 December at the CRTAFE – J Block – Aboriginal Learning Centre.

The student project team have received requests to conduct book readings to several community groups following the official launch.



Page last updated December 13, 2018