Wednesday, July 24, 2024

NT school marks 50 years of bilingual education

The Northern Territory’s Milingimbi School celebrated its 50th birthday today with events highlighting the positive work the school has done in progressing bilingual educational outcomes, community engagement and strong attendance records.

The school’s principal, Adam Dicks said the school was first established in the 1920s but transitioned to a bilingual school in 1973.

“Bilingual schools foster strong community involvement, close relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff and enhance educational goals for the students,” Mr Dicks said.

Milingimbi Community is a medium-sized community located on Yurrwi Island in north-east Arnhem Land, about 500 kilometres east of Darwin.

The community is home to around 1,200 residents, who speak multiple languages, including Djambarrpuyŋu, Gupapuyŋu, Burarra and Yan-Nhäŋu. There are 327 students at the school.

“The small community school was one of five government schools to first commence teaching language and an English bilingual program in the Northern Territory in 1973,” Mr Dicks said.

“The community is proud of the school that provides a welcoming, engaging and rich bilingual leaning environment for the children of Milingimbi.”

Milingimbi School students (Photo: Facebook).

The school has a long history of strong community involvement, right back to when the school first started in 1925, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff work closely together as teaching teams to support students to achieve good progress with learning in Djambarrpuyŋu, English, maths and other curriculum areas. The Gaṯtjirrk cultural curriculum underlies all areas of learning.

“The values curriculum developed over a decade ago between the school and the community and continues to grow, and is a guiding force for students and staff alike,” Mr Dick said.

A highlight of the day was showcasing the amazing work done by teacher, Gwen Warmbirrirr, who is retiring after 41+ years working at the school.

Ms Warmbirrirr was an assistant teacher, early childhood, upper primary and secondary teacher, art teacher, history teacher, acting teacher linguist, special education teacher, and first language specialist teacher and cultural and literacy development advisor.

“Throughout her career she was known as a kind-hearted, softly spoken teacher with firm ideas about the direction the school should take honouring the Yolngu dreams and aspirations as the core focus of the school,” Mr Dicks said.

Throughout the day the school hosted a series of events including class language lesson demonstrations (Djambarrpuyŋu and/or English) via class walk throughs, a retirement recognition of service, sharing of stories about growing up/teaching in a bilingual school, sunset band, traditional cooking, as well as various slideshows during lunch, featuring the history of the school.

“This is a celebration for the whole community to enjoy and an important time for them to look at building on this successful program as we plan for the future of ‘two-world learning’,” Mr Dicks said.

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