26 May 2021

Dhurga language revival continues with Bermagui children to launch songs, books

| Albert McKnight
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Bermagui Public School children during Dhurga language activity

Bermagui Public School children enjoy activities during a special day based around learning the Dhurga language. Photo: Supplied.

The revival of the Dhurga language is continuing on the NSW South Coast, with public school students planning on releasing songs and books written in the language.

Merrimans Local Aboriginal Lands Council (LALC) partnered with Bermagui Public School, Narooma High School, Red Cross, Bega Valley Shire Council and ABC South East to teach the language and create a series of educational resources.

In 2020, they were successful in securing funding from NSW Aboriginal Affairs’ Aboriginal Languages Community Investments Grant Program.

As part of the revival, on 28 April the funding was used to bring students from Bermagui Public School and Narooma High School together to learn more about local First Nations’ language and culture.

READ ALSO Dhurga dictionary brings language to life

Narooma High School students provided leadership and guidance when teaching the children traditional First Nations games, while other activities included learning how to do traditional weaving and painting.

But this is just one of the many activities Bermagui’s students are spearheading that is focused on Dhurga.

A spokesperson said Bermagui Public School’s children are aiming to release a series of nursery rhymes that have been translated into Dhurga, as well as writing and illustrating books in the language.

Towards the end of 2020, kindergarten and year 1 students created a song to the tune of Wheels on the Bus using the Dhurga words for Australian animals, while year 1 and year 2 students created the song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, using some Dhurga words.

Students at First Nations cultural day at Bermagui Public School

Many people came together to celebrate local First Nations’ culture at Bermagui Public School on 28 April. Photo: Supplied.

The students have also learned the songs, Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree in Dhurga, and have filmed their singing of them.

​Bermagui’s schoolkids also plan to release two books they have written and illustrated.

The first book is called Duraya Seasons, which focuses on the cultural significance of the changing seasons around Bermagui River and will be accompanied by a calendar poster.

The second book is called Our Journey – Walawaani and it follows a journey along the coast to children’s favourite places.

The spokesperson said all the resources will be released as part of the school’s NAIDOC Week events on Friday, 25 June.

Until recently, Gordon Campbell was teaching Dhurga at the school and is passionate about keeping the language alive.

“Children have been inspired, learning about their local landscape and one of the Aboriginal languages for our region,” he said.

“Children have been sharing their learning at home with their families and friends so the impact is broader than the immediate school community.

Member of Red Cross with Bermagui Public School students

There were many activities on offer for students at Bermagui Public School on 28 April. Photo: Supplied.

“Many of the students now know the greetings in Dhurga, the names of Australian animals and how to introduce themselves in language.

“Some children also know the Dhurga sounds so they can easily use the dictionary to sound out words as they need these.”

Bermagui Public School members said the key to the success of this project was working together with other agencies and the local First Nations community.

Mr Campbell was leading language in the school until recently, with a dedicated team including its Aboriginal education officer, Steve Buckley.

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