Nathan’s Story – Master of Indigenous Languages Education


You’re down now in Sydney graduating. What does it mean to graduate? My English name is Nathan Schrieber. My Language name is Jajinyji and I’m a Gunggandji
man from this beautiful place called Yarrabah. My father’s family have always lived here. And we’re still here. This is our home. And through that family line, I stand here
happily now on Country as a qualified teacher working both the primary school and the high
school here. The principal at the time, he approached me and asked if I was interested in bringing first language; bringing that back as a way of trying to get our kids back to school. I pretty much said to the principal if you
want me to run this program you have to let me do it my way. It has to be from the community and built
from the ground up. When I started out, it was only 250, 300 words
and it was a word list. There’s still no grammar, historical data,
documents around the grammar for our language. Another challenge is getting the correct pronunciation
of our words. We’ve got limited resources to call upon and
we’ve only got a few songs. That is a big challenge—making sure we are saying our words the way that they’re meant to be said. A lot of our Elders didn’t get the opportunity
to learn the language because they were taken away from their parents. There are a few generations in our community
who have the desire to learn and who want to know more. I go in there respectfully and its me learning
from them but at the same time I’m saying “this is some stuff I’ve found, let’s talk
about this”. We go on this big yarn about what this one
word could mean. This one word could have a connection to Country. It
could be something to do with family links and it opens up this treasure box of information
and knowledge that’s held within our Elders. Seeing our kids now relearn our language in
a classroom environment is a very special thing. I know we can’t go back in time and we can’t
go back to the way things were, but we can do something about it. If I could give any advice to Indigenous young people, if you’re feeling like it’s not a place for you or you’re comfortable with, education is more than power, it’s actually freedom. Graduating today. It’s huge. It’s a huge step. And it’s not just for me. The whole The whole reason why I’m doing what I’m doing is for my people. The program started originally to train Aboriginal people, Aboriginal community members to be Aboriginal education assistants in schools.

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