A PILOT indigenous language program, which began in a local school yesterday, could be the beginning of an opportunity for indigenous languages to be taught throughout Queensland.
This is the ambition of Stacie Saltner, coordinator of the Gidarjil Central Queensland Language Centre, based in Bundaberg, which is part of the Gidarjil Development Corporation.
Ms Saltner and two other Gidarjil workers, Kaitlyn Lodewikus and Melinda Holden, attended the first lesson with 22 Year 8 students from Tannum Sands State High School who were chosen for the pilot program.
After the second lesson, Ms Saltner said the plan would be to hold virtual classes by video link from Bundaberg.
The language selected to be taught is Gurang.
"Toolooa is the language for the Tannum area," Ms Saltner said.
"(However), while we are in the process of researching and documenting this language, the Toolooa group has given permission for Gurang, its neighbouring language, to be taught at the school."
Ms Saltner said the Language Centre, which covers an area of Central Queensland extending west to Longreach, has been working on reclaiming 13 different indigenous languages.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as the Central Queensland area contains more than 50 different languages.
"Our most important role within the Language Centre is reclaiming the languages within Central Queensland," Ms Saltner said.
"We have to ensure that we get community members for each language moving toward becoming fluent speakers in their own language.
"That's our main job here; to see it achieved in the schools as a language that is actually taught (and to) see the wider community learning an indigenous language."
Ms Saltner said many indigenous languages had been lost and it was only in certain areas of Australia that fluent indigenous language speakers existed.
Support teacher Deidre Carey said she was thrilled with the program, the first of its kind in the state.
"We've been waiting for this to happen for many years and now it's finally come to fruition," she said.
"We're excited as a school as well to embrace it all."
As part of their journey, students will cook and eat indigenous food, visit significant sites and construct basic sentences in the Gurang language.
The program is an extension of the school's Year 7 culture program, with Year 8 students given the option of studying the Our Local People program this year.