The Sydney Language Restoration Program
The Restoration of Aboriginal Language and Cultural Heritage Programme focuses on the restoration of the Sydney Aboriginal language to Indigenous youth in the Redfern area of Sydney.
The Programme is being run by Augustinian Volunteers Australia in partnership with Tribal Warrior Association. Augustinian Volunteers Australia has partnered with Aboriginal organisations in New South Wales and Queensland since 2008. It has operated in the Redfern area since 2011. The Programme has progressed at an accelerated rate in the past twelve months through the winning of a substantial Government grant.
Language is an essential part of culture. The Sydney language and the local Wangal culture is not clear for many of the youth in inner Sydney. The Programme aims to increase use and knowledge of the Sydney language through teaching of the language in focussed lessons.
Various studies and research identify a clear connection between identity and reoffending. Where cultural identity is unclear it has the potential to impact health, family stability, educational and employment opportunities. It also manifests itself in increased levels of imprisonment.
The goal of the Programme is to strengthen cultural-identity for Indigenous youth in Redfern which will translate into improved school attendance rates, higher numbers of youth transitioning to secondary schools and reduced social issues.
Another key objective of the Programme is to achieve broader community cultural awareness (both indigenous and non-indigenous) through the participants’ increased knowledge of the Sydney language and culture.
How is the Programme Delivered:
The Programme is delivered through Augustinian Volunteers Australia and its partner, Tribal Warrior. Augustinian Volunteers Australia is a not for profit charity operating under the Trustees of the Augustinians. The programme is overseen by an independent Board.
Language classes are run five days a week and are led by volunteers from Augustinian Volunteers Australia and Tribal Warrior mentors under the direction of the Programme leader. These volunteers have completed an intensive formation programme and have worked with other local indigenous communities in the Sydney area.
The leader of the Programme has over eighteen years’ experience working in Indigenous communities including ten years leading an educational programme in rural Queensland.
The Programme team works closely with the Tribal Warrior Association in Redfern and operates in conjunction with the Redfern Indigenous community.
The Programme includes:
· Classes two times a week in language for Indigenous youth
· Continuation and upgrade of the Mentor programme which is designed for mentors and Indigenous adults to increase their knowledge of the Sydney language. The aim is for these attendees to become tutors and Language leaders
· A series of workshops in the Redfern area to increase familiarity with the Sydney language. These workshops are open to anyone wishing to attend.
What has been Achieved:
Substantial progress has been made in achieving the Programme’s goals, including:
· 40 Indigenous youth are currently attending Language classes
· The programme has been extended to include homework classes and general support of young people in school. This is being used by 25 students
· 19 Indigenous students who were identified and prepared through this Programme are currently attending private secondary schools
· Rates of participation at school for youth attending the language classes have increased over the past two years and are above general attendance rates.
· The Programme has expanded its approach with the development and teaching of songs and dance in the Sydney language. This has significantly increased the self-identity of youth participating in the Programme through being invited by schools, businesses and other organisations to perform welcome ceremonies, dance and language classes.
· Indigenous youth from the Programme lead cultural walking tours around the Sydney Harbour foreshore
Future Initiatives requiring funding support through donations:
Donations are required to continue the development, rollout and broadening of the Programme.
Specific Programme initiatives which can be delivered with additional funding include:
· Increasing the number of language classes and developing language programs in other outreaches of the Augustinian Volunteers
· Development of an app which will enable students to readily translate words into the Sydney language
· Class Language texts for the Sydney Language are in production.