House debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

Private Members' Business

Closing the Gap

6:07 pm

Photo of Pat ConaghanPat Conaghan (Cowper, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'm pleased to rise to speak on this motion on closing the gap. Whilst I hear the comments from the other side and acknowledge that there is much to do it, I would like to address one recommendation in particular that I'm lending my support to. I think it's important that we show the positive movements in our electorates in closing the gap. The final recommendation in Closing the gap is:

By 2031, there is a sustained increase in number and strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages being spoken.

In that regard, I'd like to thank all the First Nations people, particularly those who give us those most beautiful welcomes to country. Deputy Speaker Gillespie, you would have heard the welcome to country from Uncle Bill in Port Macquarie. It gives you a tiny insight into the connection that our First Nations people have with the land. For those who don't know him, Uncle Bill takes you on a journey that you can see in your mind's eye. It is so important with this Closing the gap recommendation that there is that continued education and, in particular, the continuation and the strengthening of Torres Strait Islander languages.

Earlier this month I had the great pleasure of meeting with Clark Webb, who is the CEO of—and excuse my pronunciation—Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan, which, if said properly, means 'two path strong'. I also met with the language officer, Kaleesha Morris, and the corporate services manager, Christian Lugnan, to discuss not only their achievements but also their goals to ensure our First Nations Goori youth and community are strong in both culture and education. During the meeting it was explained to me that the BMNAC was established in 2010 and that it automatically introduced two schools of Goori Learning Centres. Since then, they have built an organisation, including three learning centres and a cultural revitalisation program. In 2016, they opened two social enterprises, the first one being the Giingan Gumbaynggirr Cultural Experience, which was set up to create a long-term, sustainable financial income stream. All the profits from this go straight back into the programs. The programs are about educating both Indigenous and non-Indigenous about the Gumbaynggirr language and the Gumbaynggirr culture. The second social enterprise—and I've been to this; it's a great place to go, so, if you're in Coffs Harbour, go along to it—is the Nyanggan Gapi Cafe. It's located at the Sealy Lookout in Coffs Harbour. This offers guests the opportunity to sample and see traditional ingredients with a new-age twist, and, again, 100 per cent of the proceeds from catering go back into the corporation to help run core programs, including after-school learning centres and language courses.

Remarkably, regarding the courses that are provided, last year alone 12 students achieved novice status in the mastery of skillsets, and that's 300 or more phrases in Gumbaynggirr. Nine of the students progressed further to a mastered skillset, which allows them to tell stories completely in Gumbaynggirr. Forty-five students have mastered a skillset, and 36 have completed their skillset and are aiming to be fully fluent in 2022. Language acquisition is one of their most important goals, including to have 50 fluent Gumbaynggirr teachers by the end of this year and the launch of a combined immersion school in 2022. As I said to Clark Webb on the day, I'm fully behind this. I think it's so important. It's part of us closing the gap, as per our government incentive.


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