Praise for Wiradjuri language course

Wiradjuri language teacher Aunty Elaine Lomas leads her former students in song at last year’s NAIDOC Ball in Gundagai.

Local Indigenous Elders Aunty Elaine Lomas and Uncle Pat Connolly are part of a Charles Sturt University team that’s received a prestigious national citation for student learning which aims to restore and revitalise Wiradjuri language and culture. 

The team, led by Professor Susan Green in the Charles Sturt School of Indigenous Australian Studies, has received a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning from the 2021 Australian Awards for University Teaching overseen by Universities Australia. 

The citation is for ‘Wiradjuri elders and community working in partnership with Charles Sturt University to ensure the restoration and revitalisation of Wiradjuri language and culture’, as manifested in the Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage (GCLWCH). 

Charles Sturt University Vice Chancellor Professor Renée Leon said she was delighted that the award reinforced the University’s commitment to advancing higher education for First Nations people and promotion of Wiradjuri language in particular. 

“I congratulate Professor Green and her team for this well-deserved achievement,” Professor Leon said. “This is a true partnership of community and the University working to create a better future. 

“I thank them for their dedication which manifests the University’s ethos, expressed in Wiradjuri as ‘yindyamarra winhanganha’, meaning ‘the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in’.” 

Professor Green was previously a Neville Bonner Award runner-up 2004, and recipient of the award in 2005 for her work in Aboriginal education. 

The current citation nomination was for the team she led and within Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage. The team includes four Community Elders – Uncle Stan Grant Snr, Mr Harry Lambshead, Aunty Elaine Lomas, Uncle Pat Connolly – and two Charles Sturt staff, Ms Letitia Harris and Ms Deb Evans.

Professor Green’s work has transitioned from focusing on increasing the opportunities for Aboriginal people entering higher education to assisting higher education providing cultural programs to Wiradjuri people and for other people to learn about Wiradjuri language and culture. 

The GCLWCH was established as a partnership between the Wiradjuri Council of Elders and Charles Sturt University as one outcome of an engagement and collaboration process with the aim of revitalising Wiradjuri language and cultural heritage. By providing greater educational opportunities for Wiradjuri into the future, it is seen as a solution to the seemingly intractable problems in ‘Closing the Gap’ on Indigenous disadvantage. Furthermore, it has been found that language revitalisation and restoration results in the reclamation of Indigenous cultural practices which in turn are fundamental for individual and community wellbeing. 

The GCWLCH is unique in terms of longevity, the ongoing collaborative and governance relationship with Charles Sturt, and in its course design and operation. 

The course is delivered in a mixed mode of two intensive on campus residential schools and online learning for each subject. The intensives provide language immersion to supplement the academic, flexible (and sometimes mobile) staffing support and tutoring. Students undertake language learning and Nation re-building subjects to prepare them to negotiate and develop a transformative community development project in the capstone subject. 

From its inception to its outcomes, the GCWLCH is an innovative course offering teaching and/or support of learning that influences, motivates and inspires students to learn, as demonstrated through its foundational principles by: 

• providing a culturally-centred and responsive space for Wiradjuri to live and learn 

• revitalising Wiradjuri culture, heritage and identity 

• rebuilding the Nation by rebuilding a Nation’s identity, by revitalising Wiradjuri language. 

The GCWLCH commenced in 2014 with 19 students and has demonstrated course growth and student success with 57 students enrolled in 2021. 

The students and graduates of the GCWLCH create a living network of like-minded leaders who continue to engage with the program, as well as in and between their own communities, in ways that are continuing to generate transformative change throughout the Wiradjuri and wider society.

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