Books celebrating the Taribelang language will be launched at Bundaberg Regional Library during National Reconciliation Week.
Stepping Black director Robert McLellan has been working with students from Bundaberg North State School to produce the series of four books.
“Children have come together to make their own little narratives and they’ve put the illustrations to them,” Mr McLellan said.
“Then we’ve gone over them and we’ve inserted Taribelang words – that’s our first language for the Bundaberg Region.
“It will give readers an opportunity to learn some of our First Nation’s language while enjoying some of the work that the students have made.”
Everyone is welcome to attend the free event at the Bundaberg Library from 10am on Sunday, 1 June.
The morning will feature the official launch of the stories, a reading, an activity with the Central Queensland Language Centre, and the unveiling of the Reconciliation Banner.
“In the spirit of reconciliation week it is a fantastic opportunity to engage our non-indigenous members of the community and our indigenous members of the community to come together to share in something so important.”
Efforts to reclaim Taribelang language
Mr McLellan said it was essential that the community joined in the push to recover the endangered language.
“I think it’s very important, it’s crucial really. For such a long period of time we have gone without it,” he said.
“We’ve worked very hard over the last five years with the Central Queensland Language Centre to reclaim our local language.
“If we don’t share it around I think we will be at risk of losing it.”
He said an endangered language was measured by the number of fluent speakers.
“We have no fluent speakers of the Taribelang language in Bundaberg. But we are slowly getting better, we are training and doing work with the community.”
Students embracing first language
Mr McLellan said it had been a pleasure working with local students on the program, which was funded by the Celebrating Reconciliation Small Grants program.
“The students I’m teaching have picked it up a lot quicker than it first took me to learn my own language.
“They just love it, they’re speaking sentences now that are off by heart.
“They’re getting the whole school to participate in language activities so it’s just fantastic.”
He said it was an inclusive project.
“We’ve got indigenous and non-indigenous students participating.
“It’s a platform for our young indigenous students to feel proud for their culture, for their language and to share that with their friends.”
While he wasn’t giving too much away, Mr McLellan said the stories all involved animals and had important messages behind the words.
“We based them a lot on our old dreamtime stories with the same sort of methods that they would teach us.
“When you read the stories have a look, not only learn the language, but have a look for that message hidden behind the story.”
Organisations working to recover first language
Mr McLellan is one of five directors of the Stepping Black program which delivers community programs centred around arts and culture, employment and training and business development.
“Where we can we are embedding language around the city of Bundaberg.
“We’re making a significant contribution towards the reclamation process I believe.
“Central Queensland Language Centre has really driven the language reclamation process.
“Other organisations have gotten involved and embedded language where they can, especially a lot of our local schools, the Bundaberg Regional Council and all of their entities.
“So different organisations like that have really stepped up and put their hand up to participate in our language reclamation journey.”
Reclamation project part of family history
For Mr McLellan, this work is very close to his heart.
“I am a Taribelang and a Gurang Gurang man,” Mr McLellan said.
“Our family, we’ve been here for a very long time in Bundaberg.
“I feel really proud to see our younger students and even adults and parents supporting the projects and getting involved with them.
“It’s fantastic to see such a broad community engagement and we’re always wanting to increase that.
“Things like this they’re a great opportunity for non-indigenous members of the public to come in and learn a little more about our first nation’s culture.”