Olivia Parker-Dow, 6 with her mother Frances Belle Parker whose letter about the removal of funding for an indigenous language program at Maclean Public School was mentioned in the federal senate.
Olivia Parker-Dow, 6 with her mother Frances Belle Parker whose letter about the removal of funding for an indigenous language program at Maclean Public School was mentioned in the federal senate. Adam Hourigan

Fight to keep native language in school goes national

IT IS a language that was almost lost, and Yaegl woman Frances Belle Parker is determined not to see it happen again.

Following the recent reallocation of Indigenous Advancement Strategy funding, a Yaegl language program at Maclean Public School costing just $18,000 a year has been stopped, leading to a Northern Territory senator to mention it in federal parliament following a message from Ms Parker.

"The program ran for all the students at the school, and they were lucky to have Raelene Richey, who is the Year 2 teacher, but also has a masters of Indigenous Language, and the school is lucky to have her," Ms Parker said.

"She would go around to the classes once a week, and done with the appropriate permissions of the Yaegl community and teaching both the indigenous and non-indigenous children."

Ms Parker said the resources for the program were also shared around other schools in the area, including the high school... benefiting hundreds of students across the area.

She said that in the past the indigenous community was not allowed to speak their native language, and over the years much of it had been lost.

However following a series of workshops and consultation with the local community, the Yaygirr dictionary was created in 2012, and Ms Parker said that throughout the community there was a pride to be able to speak their language freely.

"I remember after it was launched being down the street and yelling out 'Ginnagay' out to one of our cousins, and felt a real sense of pride of being able to speak the language," she said.

"After the classes had been running, I remember a non-indigenous girl from Maclean Public who spoke to my mum in language, which has blown her away by the respect the entire school community were starting to gain towards the Yaegl community."

Last week, Northern Territory senator Malarndirri McCarthy brought Ms Parker's story to parliament in a speech, something Ms Parker said she was immensely proud of.

Ms Parker said she had written to local member Chris Gulaptis, who agreed on the importance of the program and had petitioned the state Aboriginal Affairs Minister Sarah Mitchell to see if the program could be funded.



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