Community working together

Reflecting on Lyndall Ley’s call to do more for Indigenous communities across Australia, Paula Morrison reports on the achievements of her community in helping to rejuvenate the language of the local Gumbaynggirr people.

In 1986, five Gumbaynggirr elders who had been relocated off country, joined forces to begin the task of language revival for their children and grandchildren. In 2019, the International Year of Indigenous Languages this group, which has developed into the Muurrbay Aboriginal Language & Culture Co-operative, has much to celebrate.

Portrait of Gary Williams
Gary Williams, CEO of Muurrbay (younger man in photo is also portrait of Gary)

Recordings of fluent language speakers had been made in the 1960s and 70s. Along with manuscripts of anthropology student, Gerhardt Laves, who collected phonetic transcriptions in the late 1920s and early 1930s, much material required painstaking analysis by the group, in consultation with community, and the expertise of linguists. Gradually, from these early word lists and little bits of recorded language, structures began to emerge, pronunciations refined, and dictionaries and grammars could be produced. Borrowing from traditional forms, words have had to be created to address new concepts.  Now my school library greets students at the door with a sign: Darruyay yilaaming Janda-bibaa Baamgala which, literally translated, welcomes them to the ‘paper gather room’. Gary Williams, CEO of Muurrbay, says that although traditional stories had been told to him since his childhood, English language could only contain ’the bones’ of the story. In their original Gumbaynggirr language, details appeared that had previously been lost. For example, the word for ‘dawn’, bambuuda, literally means ‘in the soft’ part of the day, which adds to the atmosphere of the rising sun.

In 1997 Muurrbay became a Registered Training Organisation, focused on learning, research, and teaching. Adult classes commenced, and Gumbaynggirr also began to be taught in two Bowraville schools: St Mary’s Primary, and Bowraville Central. Over time, adults who studied through Muurrbay took the language program into more schools.  This year over 28 schools, both government and private, offer Gumbaynggirr language classes to all students, and hundreds of adults have completed language courses. Several students have studied Gumbaynggirr for their Higher School Certificate. Gumbaynggirr is now being spoken as part of daily life, and is routinely used for texting. As the language use has grown, so has a sense of belonging and identity within the community. School language teachers report that students take the language home to teach their families.

Now my school library greets students at the door with a sign: Darruyay yilaaming Janda-bibaa Baamgala which, literally translated, welcomes them to the ‘paper gather room’.

Muurrbay has been so successful in revitalizing language that in 2004 their role expanded to become a Regional Language Centre. Their experience has enabled them to lead other language groups through the ‘Many Rivers’ Project, which offers strategic, project planning, linguistic, and IT support, as well as teaching expertise to six other language groups along the New South Wales coast who are engaged in their own language revitalisation projects. To date, Muurrbay has published over 20 titles to support teaching and language, and is currently working on a joint project with Sydney University for students to access Muurrbay’s language programs in an online setting.

Awareness of the revitalisation has spread throughout the wider community. Gary Williams presents a regular language segment on local ABC radio, and is often approached by locals who’ve learned a word or two. A Business Advisory Committee approached the Nambucca Council with the recommendation that all road signage be dual language, and this proposal was unanimously passed as policy in March, 2019. All new road signs, and those being replaced will now be in English and Gumbaynggirr. Library spaces are utilised for community language classes and story time sessions with elders.

At Nambucca Heads High School, a ‘Junior Lands Council’ was formed in 2011. Students, both indigenous and non, began with projects such as creating metal letterboxes and park benches, and then restored a vacant area of land into a park with a level playing field, orchard, children’s playground, and gazebo. The park was recently dedicated to the memory of a student with a sculpture garden designed and created by students, whose enterprise was rewarded with funding from other agencies as a joint project.

As the revitalisation of the Gumbaynggirr language continues, opportunities for employment increase, and further entrepreneurial ideas emerge as possibilities. Gary Williams reports a profound effect upon the community, with an increased sense of pride and personal identity.

Paula Morrison
Teacher-Librarian
Nambucca Heads High School

This article was originally published in Volume 40, Issue 5/6 of INCITE, which can be found at https://www.alia.org.au/sites/default/files/documents/INCITE%20May-June%202019.pdf. INCITE is the Member magazine of the Australian Library and Information Association.

Let’s not think of libraries as gifts, but as wise investments

Fleur Morrison writes about the importance of libraries, whether in our cities or schools, for the future of our communities.

There are plenty of things that young people feel aggrieved about being saddled with. Climate change and a long-running war in the Middle East are two that leap immediately to mind.

But there are other things handed down by previous generations that seem to suggest extraordinary generosity and vision. One is libraries.

Continue reading Let’s not think of libraries as gifts, but as wise investments

In conversation with ASLA’s Teacher Librarian of the Year

For Library Lovers’ Day, we celebrate the work of Jane Viner, who was awarded Teacher Librarian of the Year in 2017. SCIS recently spoke to Jane about what makes her library unique and what she finds most rewarding about her role and working in school libraries.

‘I loved this book, Mrs Viner. Now I know why I like reading. Are there any more like it?’

Continue reading In conversation with ASLA’s Teacher Librarian of the Year

What can a library be?

Stony Evans
Library media specialist
Hot Springs, Arkansas, USA

Do you ever stop and think about what the school library can be for your learning community? It is easy to get caught up in the daily activities and forget about the endless possibilities that exist for our learners. As I prepare to begin my 10th year as a school librarian, I’ve been thinking about how the library spaces and resources can transform our students’ lives. I would like to share some recent happenings that have illustrated this to me.

Continue reading What can a library be?

How the school library saved my life

Megan McDonald
Children’s book author

I grew up reading—at the school library, on the bookmobile, at the comic book store, at home next to the heater under the piano. As a girl, I found pieces of myself in the characters of Ramona, Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls, Jo March, Harriet the Spy, Jane Eyre.

Continue reading How the school library saved my life

You think you know what librarians do?

Corey Thornblad
Teacher
Kilmer Middle School, Virginia, USA

I recently had the pleasure of participating in the annual Virginia Association of School Librarians conference in Norfolk, Virginia. I’ll admit that I was a fish out of water – the only teacher in a sea of school librarians. Even though I don’t know much about the Dewey Decimal System or online catalogues, they made me feel right at home.

As I sat at dinner, listening to their conversation about teaching and learning, I realised that unless you have had the privilege of working in a school over the past decade you may not understand what school librarians actually do. Librarians are not a braggy bunch, so I feel inclined to set the record straight on their behalf. You probably think they spend their entire day shelving and checking out books, while shushing students. It’s time to set aside these stereotypes and give librarians their long overdue kudos.

Continue reading You think you know what librarians do?

Highlights of Connections 103

Here are the highlights from Connections issue 103, which is now available online. You can also download a copy of the full-text PDF.

Reimagining the library landscape: an approach to school library design
Carey Baptist Grammar School recently rebuilt their middle and senior library. Anne Whisken outlines their library’s approach to designing learning spaces, ensuring all students’ needs are catered for.

Continue reading Highlights of Connections 103

Self-advocacy through evidence-based practice

Cathy Costello
Teacher librarian
Campbelltown Performing Arts High School
http://www.virtuallibrary.info

As teacher librarians, we can become frustrated and feel we are victims of occupational invisibility – that our contribution to whole-school programs and student outcomes is unseen and undervalued. This feeling may be due to the nature of our work in empowering colleagues. As a result, our contribution is often swallowed up in the successes of others (Oberg 2006). Our invisibility is also because, while we can see the impact we make on a daily basis, we can usually only offer anecdotal evidence regarding our contributions (Hay & Todd 2010; Lamb & Johnson 2004–2007).

To remedy this, we need to throw off the victim mentality and advocate for ourselves. We must become proactive. We must self-promote and make visible our contribution. To this end, we need to gather hard evidence to unequivocally prove that we make a difference (Bonnano & Moore 2009; Hay & Todd 2010). According to the Australian Library and Information Association (2004), excellent teacher librarians ‘undertake research which informs evidence-based innovation in school library programs’. Likewise, Hay & Foley (2009) advocate that, to build capacity for student learning in the 21st century, teacher librarians need to employ evidence-based practice to support a ‘continuous improvement cycle’. Similarly, The NSW Department of Education and Training (2010) has posited evidence-based practice as one of its foremost recommendations in creating sustainable futures for school libraries.

Continue reading Self-advocacy through evidence-based practice

Connections 78

You can now read the latest issue of Connections at the SCIS website.

Seven strategies to develop your advocacy toolkit

Strategies
Strategies by Boris Drenec CC-by-nc-sa

Karen Bonanno provides a series of advocacy activities to help school library staff influence policy, advising that to bring about change requires consistent and persistent effort to shift perceptions. She advocates maintaining regular positive activity supported by strategies such as identifying a memorable message, capturing killer statistics, gathering startling facts and statements and leveraging the network.

Personal learning network put to great advantage

Leonie Dyason and Rachel Fidock, teacher librarians from Mooroopna Secondary College (MSC) share their experiences of the Personal Learning Network (PLN) program, run by the State Library of Victoria (SLV) and the School Library Association of Victoria (SLAV). They outline how their practice has changed through application in the library, in team teaching and in troubleshooting. A list of useful Web 2.0 tools is provided.

Ten reasons why Google can’t replace learning!

Bev Novak questions the idea that searching can replace learning. Her ten questions challenge teachers and parents to consider the distinction between information and knowledge, and to refine what they mean by learning and how learning is best achieved. This article is reprinted from her NovaNews blog.

The evolving role of the school library and information centre in education in digital Europe

This article outlines research by Dr Helen Boelens into the role of school libraries in digital Europe, using the Kalsbeek Information Literacy Matrix (KILM).
A poster: ‘Read’ in European language terms is provided for download.

The Hub: campaign for quality school libraries in Australia

This article by Georgia Phillips provides an update on the activities of the Hub campaign for quality school libraries in Australia, following the release of the Australian Government’s report into school libraries and teacher librarians in Australian schools. It includes an overview of the current state of school library staffing in Australian state and territory government schools.

Print the complete issue of Connections 78, term 3 2011