Teacher Lachlan McKenzie works with the students during the Yumbin program.
Teacher Lachlan McKenzie works with the students during the Yumbin program. Eidsvold State School

Wakka Wakka language program earns teacher top nomination

AN INDIGENOUS language is being revitalised in Eidsvold thanks to a teacher and state teaching awards finalist who has helped make huge changes not just for his students, but for the broader community.

In his first year at Eidsvold State School, Lachlan McKenzie worked with local elders, the Central Queensland University Languages Group, the school leadership team, and with a linguist to deliver a Wakka Wakka language program called Yumbin, which means "everyone", to every student from Prep to Year 12.

As a result, school staff are using language greetings in emails and phone calls and more than 100 words have been taught and placed in a word bank for students and teachers, including Wakka Wakka names for animals and body parts, kinship words, topographic verbs, questions and greetings.

Songs have also been posted on Vimeo for community members to sing with their children.

Staff from other schools in close contact with Eidsvold State School have also found out their indigenous language greetings to use in emails, as part of a ripple effect from Yumbin.

Mr McKenzie's leadership and his dedication to his students and community are just some of the reasons he has been chosen as a finalist for the Queensland College of Teachers Excellence in Beginning to Teach Award.

It is the only State Government awards which recognise teachers from all schooling sectors statewide.

Winners will be announced on Thursday on the eve of World Teachers' Day celebrations in Australia.

Mr McKenzie said he was excited and surprised when he found out he had been nominated.

"I had never thought of myself as excelling or doing anything out of the ordinary compared to our wider school context," he said.

"I guess as a beginning teacher you are always working hard to do your best - it was very humbling to be nominated and recognised for some of that work."

Mr McKenzie said was vital that indigenous languages were preserved.

"Unfortunately our collective history has seen many languages be systematically destroyed, now we need to do the work to ensure the languages that have survived are able to thrive," he said.

He said learning the language was also a way to bring students together.

"It is a gateway for understanding and appreciation of something everyone knows is there, but not everyone is able to access," he said.

"Language is a beautiful and unique thing and I hope that more schools and community groups go on this journey."

Mr McKenzie said his aim was to revive the language in the community as well as the school.

"As I am non-indigenous, the goal has always been to have a Wakka Wakka person running the program," he said.

"I am currently training up two of our amazing teacher aids, Corey and Cass, who are respected, local Wakka Wakka people to eventually deliver the program.

"It is a really exciting development. This will ensure the language program is sustainable long into the future.

"The community is involved in every way possible and the students continue to learn their language.

"Thanks to everyone who has supported us to get this language going in the school.

"I was lucky enough to step into the program at a pivotal time but there has been many, many people behind the scenes who have done important work, from linguists to the assistant regional director and all the staff at Eidsvold and in the community."


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