Cape York – Indigenous Languages Workshops

Tharngaan book – Guugu Yimithirr language.

State Library of Queensland partnered with Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity (RNLD)Pama Language Centre and North Qld. Regional Aboriginal Corporation Language Centre to host Indigenous Languages Workshops at the Hope Vale IKC and Mossman State School.

Workshops were tailored to meet the community needs and to help them reach their language goals through the DRIL Program. Documenting and Revitalising Indigenous Languages (DRIL) Program is a flexible non-accredited training program that supports the long-term maintenance of Australian Aboriginal languages. Training modules under this program includes the Master-Apprentice program which focuses on learning and understanding techniques and strategies in learning language.

The Master- Apprentice program uses the immersion language learning model, resulting in understanding language immersion principles and methods allowing rebuilding and strengthening of Indigenous Languages. Participants learn how to apply immersion methods in pairs or small teams as appropriate to their specific family, community or workplace in order to support the revitalisation and maintenance of their language.

HOPE VALE – The first workshop for the week was held in the Hope Vale IKC.

Participants included Elders, community members and experienced language teachers and focused on the Master-Apprentice Program. To ensure the future of the Guugu Yimidhirr language, Elders, community and language teachers came together for a two day workshop to learn different strategies and techniques to enhance language learning in Hope Vale. The Master-Apprentice language learning method introduced the group to active listening and learning techniques. The first stage of the program is to leave English behind and speak only in language. This is followed by Total Physical Response (TPR) teaching method which is based on the coordination of language and physical movement. In TPR, the master gives commands to the apprentice in the language being learned through body movements, with the apprentice responding through listening and whole-body actions. TPR also uses a variety of pictures, objects and props although they are not compulsory. As the apprentice progresses the master may use objects found in the room or home such as furniture books and everyday use items. The group discussed strategies that are easy to implement in bringing language back into the home and will involve community groups such as the Hope Vale Men’s Shed, Hope Vale Congress Rangers plus the wider community.

Pama Language Centre works closely with the Hope Vale community in delivering weekly language lessons, and developing materials in Guugu Yimidhirr with the goal to improve adult language and literacy skills which will support language learning in the home.




MOSSMAN -The first morning in Mossman was an introduction and overview to the DRIL training program which enabled the group to identify topics that will enhance their community language work. The workshop in Mossman focussed on training in Master-Apprentice program teaching strategies that can be used by anyone teaching language whether in the home, school or in the community. The headmaster at Mossman State Primary School is very supportive in trialling Kuku Yalanji language lessons to year 4 students by Term 3 in 2018.

Participants attending the workshop included Elders, parents, teachers and rangers from Jabalbina Aboriginal Corporation. The group divided into three smaller groups to discuss and develop plans in bringing language lessons to Year 4 students in term 3 of 2018 school year and the wider community. Discussions on what Master-Apprentice strategies and techniques could be used in teaching language were followed by demonstrations by the group using objects that were on hand. Further discussions on language resources supporting techniques and strategies were followed by how to plan language sessions.

It was a very busy week and we look forward to hearing how language lessons, teaching strategies & techniques and creating resources are progressing in the communities.


Rose Warsow

Indigenous Languages Project Officer, kuril dhagun

State Library Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages webpages


Further Reading

De Zwaan, J. (1969) A preliminary analysis of Gogo-Yimidjir: a study of the structure of the primary dialect of the Aboriginal language spoken at the Hopevale Mission in North Queensland. Q499.15 dez

Gordon, T. and Haviland, J. (1980) Milbi: Aboriginal tales from Queensland’s Endeavour RiverJUVQ 398.20994 GOR

Haviland, J. (1979) ‘Guugu Yimidhirr’, in Handbook of Australian languages. Vol 1. J 499.15 HAN

Hope Vale Community Learning Centre (2006) Mangal-bungal: Clever with hands, baskets and stories woven by some of the women of Hopevale, Cape York Peninsula. P920.72 MAN

Patz, E. (2002) A grammar of the Kuku Yalanji language of north Queensland. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. J 499.15 PAT

Sutton, P. (ed) (1974) Languages of Cape York: papers presented to the Linguistic Symposium, Part B, held in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Biennial General Meeting, May,1974. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies: Canberra. G 499.15 1976