As a result, ESS staff are using language greetings in emails and phone calls and over 100 words have been taught and placed in a word bank for students and teachers, including Wakka Wakka names for animals and body parts, kinship words, topographic verbs, questions and greetings. Songs have been posted on Vimeo for community members to sing with their children. Staff from other schools in close contact with ESS have also found out their local Indigenous language greetings to use in emails, as part of a ripple effect from Yumbin.
Mr McKenzie’s outstanding leadership and his dedication to his students and local community are just some of the reasons he has been chosen as a finalist for the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) Excellence in Beginning to Teach Award.
The QCT Excellence in Teaching Awards are the only state government awards which recognise teachers from all schooling sectors state-wide. Winners will be announced on October 25, on the eve of World Teachers’ Day celebrations in Australia.
Mr McKenzie said languages were vital for cultural survival because they helped to continue traditions, beliefs and protocols, and connected people to their land.
“Language is life,” he said. “We are doing a complete reclamation – there are no fluent speakers left – there are some community members who speak fragments – so we are starting at the bottom and working up from there,” he said. “It has been a long process to get everything right.”
Mr McKenzie said students were really proud of being able to speak the language of the land, and that it is wonderful to see both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, who also love to challenge him if he ever gets anything wrong, use it together.
He said the next step for Yumbin was the current training of two Wakka Wakka teacher aides to learn and eventually deliver the program, to ensure its sustainability. He also delivered a talk recently to the Department of Education’s language team and school principals about the support classroom teachers require during a language reclamation.
“There are a lot of people who work hard to make sure it all runs smoothly. If this continues into the future, I think this will have a big impact on families around here and that is pretty amazing,” Mr McKenzie said.
Congratulations Mr McKenzie on being named a finalist.