THE region’s traditional language is connecting generations and for Angela Martin, that fills her with pride.
In a classroom at TAFE in Port Macquarie, a group of Aboriginal women and men come together to learn the traditional language of Gathang.
Spoken in the nations of Birrbay, Guringay and Warrimay, the Gathang language is being revitalised thanks to a dedicated group who want to connect with their ancestors.
Kylie Dowse and Angela Martin are just two of the members who come each week to the Wednesday night class.
“To me these classes are more than just language, they are a connection to other Aboriginals – past and present – who are our ancestors and our future,” Ms Dowse said.
“We are a very encouraging group of people who learn together, are able to laugh at each other but support and learn together.”
Angela Martin adds the classes are also nurturing a sense of togetherness.
“I feel very proud to be able to have my daughter and her daughter here in the classes with me,” Ms Martin said.
“As well as learning the language it is about dedicating time each week to be able to spend together and that time is just so special.”
Teacher Rhonda Radley said the class is all about the students interacting together and learning from each other.
“I am just so proud of everyone who comes each week and their dedication and passion at wanting to learn Gathang,” Ms Radley said.
“I run the class not so I stand at the front of the room and dictate what they need to know, but rather we talk to each other and bounce off each other.
“This is similar to how our ancestors would have passed on the language and culture to the next generation.
“It is not about making people feel bad for making mistakes but about encouraging and supporting people as they learn.”
Amy Davies is one of the younger students in the class and said she thinks more young Aboriginal people should learn Gathang.
“For me it is almost a family event, my cousins, aunts and sister comes to the class so it great that we can all be learning together,” Amy said.
“I started learning the language quite young and when I got to school people would look at me as if I was speaking some words in another language – and turns out I was.
“But I come so I can continue learning the language and develop a better sense of culture and community and to learn to speak the language of our ancestors.
“I think knowing the language of our ancestors is so important because it allows for a deeper connection to our land, our family and to our culture.”