Ngarrindjeri language learned in Victor Harbor

At Victor Harbor High School, (front) linguist Dr Mary-Anne Gale congratulates
Ngarrindjeri elder Phyllis Williams on completing a certificate four in teaching an aboriginal language. Also involved in the program are (middle) Archie Kartinyeri, Jillian Heppner, Leonie McCallum, Rose Childs, Kyla McHughes and Anita Wano-Sumner. (Back) The University of Adelaide's Clayton Cruise, Murray Thomas,
David Hammond and Steve Ferris.
At Victor Harbor High School, (front) linguist Dr Mary-Anne Gale congratulates Ngarrindjeri elder Phyllis Williams on completing a certificate four in teaching an aboriginal language. Also involved in the program are (middle) Archie Kartinyeri, Jillian Heppner, Leonie McCallum, Rose Childs, Kyla McHughes and Anita Wano-Sumner. (Back) The University of Adelaide's Clayton Cruise, Murray Thomas, David Hammond and Steve Ferris.

Every Friday, Victor Harbor High School hosts Ngarrindjeri elders, lecturers, students and community members who are studying or have an interest in the endangered language of the Ngarrindjeri.

On Friday, December 5, the class celebrated students completing the Certificate 3 - Learning an Endangered Aboriginal Language, and one student who completed the Certificate 4 - Teaching an Endangered Aboriginal Language. 

There are another six students who are currently studying the course.

Ngarrindjeri elder Phyllis Williams completed the Certificate 4. She said she enjoys the opportunity of passing on the Ngarrindjeri language and culture to everyone who has an interest in it.

“I love being with the people and sharing my knowledge and stories,” Phyllis said.

Since the certificate course’s inception in April 2013, 30 participants have engaged in studies, and there has been interest in a great number of visitors along the way. 

“The Ngarrindjeri language has never gone to sleep; there are around 500 words still commonly used and we think there are about 50 local families who use it at home,” Phyllis said.

The class is backed by the University of Adelaide, and run by Dr Mary-Anne Gale.

Mary-Anne said the program is trying to revive the Ngarrindjeri language, which has not been fluently spoken since the 1960s. 

“We’re trying to reconstruct the language to be able to make whole sentences and relearning the grammar,” Mary-Anne said.

She said the classes at Victor Harbor High School involve making speeches and songs.

“It hasn’t been a language learnt by children for over 100 years, but the Ngarrindjeri are very proud that they still have remembered those 500 words.”

The course is based at the school, because of Ngarrindjeri elders who live in the area.