Australian children want to learn First Nations words
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Australian children want to learn First Nations words more than foreign languages survey reveals

Australian children want to learn First Nations words more than foreign languages survey reveals

The Children’s Voice survey released on 11 April follows a Federal Opposition announcement that it would commit $14 million over 3 years to employ a First Nations Language and Culture Teacher in 60 schools. 

The Know Your Country campaign – which has described the ALP policy as a “great first step” –
invites all political parties, Federal and State, to support funding Cultural Educators in every primary school.

The campaign commissioned, Children’s Voice survey found seven in 10 primary students want to regularly learn from a First Nations Cultural Educator – but only one in three had the opportunity at school last year to meet even one person from the local First Nations community.

Know Your Country ambassador and rock icon Peter Garrett said primary schools were specially placed to set up children for lifelong learning. If children are asking to learn more First Nations language and culture then we should listen to them,” he said. 

“I’ve spent the last three months on tour around Australia – acknowledging Country at every stop – and I’m seeing how thirsty Australians are for knowledge of First Nations people and culture. Even so, schools not rock concerts should be Australians’ gateway to the world’s oldest living culture.”

“What better way to improve our understanding of culture than to teach young children the languages first spoken on this land thousands of years ago?”

Campaign advisor Professor Tom Calma, AO, from the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, said: “The findings show a genuine hunger from both parents and children themselves to be authentically taught more about the country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and languages.”  

“Wouldn’t it be great if the local First Nations language for ‘hello’ rolled off our children’s tongues as easily as Bonjour or Ciao?” he said. 

Campaign Co-Chair Scott Winch said Know Your Country was about sharing the gift of that ancient wisdom with all children directly from local First Nations people.

“There’s an incredible power and investment in knowing the history and unique language of the land you are standing on. When children learn directly from a local First Nations educator, our research shows they are more likely to enjoy the class, and develop a thirst to learn even more.

“It would be terrific if children knew as much about the importance and had a deeper appreciation of local significant sites and creation stories where the children live, play and go to school – as well as Tutankhamun’s tomb and the Pyramids. 

Australia is blessed to be home to the world’s oldest living culture. Children need – and want – to learn it from local First Nations people themselves.”

Prof Calma said: “A more holistic education guided by local First Nations Cultural Educators would help build a greater depth of knowledge across more areas, and stronger respect for First Nations people.” 

Schools are required to teach First Nations content as an ACARA cross-curriculum priority and teachers are meant to be capable of delivering First Nations content under AITSL teacher standards, Dr Winch said. 

“The survey shows limited progress in the 10 years since these important frameworks were implemented,” he said.

“There is minimal delivery of First Nations content across the curriculum, however the survey revealed that when a First Nations person was engaged to teach directly, the number of First Nations topics taught in class actually trebled.”  

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