Our Languages Matter – Koolin-ik ba Kirrip-buluk (Family & Friends) NAIDOC Event

On Wednesday 5th July, the Southern NAIDOC Koolin-ik ba Kirrip-buluk (Family & Friends) community partnership event‪ reached its fifth year at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Cranbourne Gardens.

Despite predictions a rain all week, this year’s Koolin-ik ba Kirrip-buluk NAIDOC celebration shone bright, drawing one of the largest crowds in our event’s history, with over 1,500 children, families and community in attendance.

The 2017 National NAIDOC theme Our Languages Matter celebrates the important role that Aboriginal languages play in strengthening identity and connecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to Country, Ancestors, cultural knowledge and traditional stories. This year’s NAIDOC theme also provides a platform to shine a spotlight on the Aboriginal, community and Elder led programs that are working to reawaken and revitalise Aboriginal languages and culture.

The Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne – Balee Koolin Bubup Bush Playgroup program is one such Aboriginal Early Years’ Bilingual Program that is delivered in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages and Casey-Cardinia Libraries’ Library Has Legs Project. The shared partnership goal is ‘literacy’- strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s cultural and plant literacy, as well as traditional language and emergent literacy development. Most importantly, the Balee Koolin Bubup Playgroup program provides opportunities for Koori kids to learn on Country and learn together with their community, spending time with Aboriginal Elders, cultural and early years educators who provide opportunities for children to learn about their Aboriginal heritage, traditional language and stories.

Traditionally, Aboriginal language is transmitted or passed on to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children by Elders, Traditional Owners or senior members of a Clan group. However, the transmission of Aboriginal languages was severely impacted by British settlement and colonisation in Australia, which resulted in assimilative Government policies and practices that restricted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from speaking their language, practicing their culture and passing on cultural knowledge to younger generations.

Although, there has been recent changes to the Victorian Curriculum to include Indigenous languages, only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are permitted to teach their traditional languages. Therefore, the priority of the Balee Koolin Bubup Bush Playgroup and Koolin-ik ba Kirrip-buluk NAIDOC partnership lies in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members to revitalize traditional languages by providing culturally relevant learning opportunities that embrace Indigenous world views and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, carers and families to spend time with Aboriginal Elders and cultural educators who provide transmission opportunities that strengthen their cultural identity and revitalise their traditional languages and culture.

This year’s Koolin-ik ba Kirrip-buluk NAIDOC activities showcases some of the Indigenous pedagogies our Balee Koolin Bubup Bush playgroups families enjoy each week including: traditional storytelling and puppetry with Uncle Ron Murray, songs and dances using Boon Wurrung language, traditional dance with Mandy Nicholson, nature based crafts -creating woolly Kookaburra grubs, woven platypus nests (with Baluk Arts), clay echidnas, decorating knowledge and clap sticks, floating mini bark canoes down the stream and making kangaroo tails for the Kangaroo Mob Style dance led by the Indigenous Hip Hop Dance Group.

Another Balee Koolin Bubup Bush Playgroup activity families enjoyed this year involved a community publishing project with children’s Author Jeannette Rowe who created Whose Animals Australia – a bilingual book for children to learn both English and traditional or first language words for the animals found in the Australian bush, as well as their tracks, habitats and foods.

Our Balee Koolin Bubup Bush Playgroup families arrived one hour early at the NAIDOC event, with their children looking their best; dressed up in their Aboriginal colours and shirts, with their personally woven emu feather belts (made with Aunty Fay in playgroup) ready to perform at the Welcome to Country. As co-facilitator of our Balee Koolin Bubup Bush Playgroup I am personally very, very proud of our Bubups – our playgroup children (also their mums, carers and siblings) who performed their playgroup songs in Boon Wurrung language with dance moves and clap sticks.

Over the last four years I have had the privelidge of watching the children grow up strong as they learn about and participate in their Aboriginal culture. They proudly call out and sing Boon Wurrung language words and love hearing Traditional stories from their culture, holding traditional tools and objects in their hands, feeling ochre painted on their faces, listening to and engaging in conversations around stories.

There are many local organisations to thank and acknowledge who come together in the spirit of reconciliation each year to celebrate with our Aboriginal community  and provide support for the Koolin-ik ba Kirrip-buluk NAIDOC event; Dandananong District Aboriginal Corporation, Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages, Boon Wurrung Foundation, Baluk Arts, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria- Cranbourne, Aboriginal Best Start, Jeannette Rowe’s -Bright Books, Monash Health, Southern Melbourne Primary Care Partnership, City of Casey, City of Greater Dandenong, Windermere, Anglicare, Life Without Barriers, Casey-Cardinia Library Corporation, Bunnings, Officeworks.

Congratulations to everyone involved who contributed to the success of this year’s event, creating a happy and proud day for families and community!

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If you would like to receive more information about Aboriginal languages please contact the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages and Boon Wurrung Elder Fay Stewart-Muir for the permission and use of Boon wurrung language.

Please contact:
The Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages
70 Hanover Street, Fitzroy, Victoria 3065 Email: info@vaclang.org.au
Phone: +61 3 9600 3811 or 1300 97 36 97 (cost of local call)

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we gather, the Boon Wurrung peoples and the greater Kulin Nation and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and to our future Elders, our Koori children.