An ancient language at risk of dying has been given new life through a Bidwill poetry class. An expansion of Anglicare’s Gulyangarra Yellamundie (Dharug Children Storytellers) project, the poetry class aims to engage Aboriginal students at Bidwill Primary School between the ages of 9 and 12. Held every Wednesday afternoon, 25 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students are taught how to express themselves through poetry in the Dharug language.
“For contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities, poetry is an important part of Aboriginal art,” Anglicare Coordinator, Narelle Hennessy explains.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people express how they feel in their societies today. Their poems are about the barriers and challenges they share with non-Indigenous people but also about problems that directly affect their lives.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth need to be able to express themselves and this is a way for them to express their feelings in a safe environment. They are able to write their feelings and grievances through poems, free from repercussions.
“Poetry can also be a powerful tool for advocacy where you can express your feelings and ideas without resorting to violence.”
The language of the Dharug nation is said to be 5,000 years old and covered much of the Sydney Basin. Many state it was the first Aboriginal language heard by European colonisers when they arrived at Sydney Cove in 1788.
“We’ve had our first class and it was quite successful,” says Narelle. “By the end of the hour we had about five students writing two or three sentences of poetry.”
Local elder Aunty Edna Watson has translated English words to Dharug and will assist the Bidwill class with pronunciation through a series of recordings.
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