EARLY next year Coffs Harbour, on NSW's North Coast, will become home to the first bilingual indigenous school in NSW that teaches in both English and Gumbaynggirr.
Established by the Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation (BMNAC), the Gumbaynggirr Giingana Freedom School will focus on re-imagining the education of indigenous children in the region.
"The school is key to the revitalisation of Gumbaynggirr language and culture," Chief Executive Officer of BMNAC Clark Webb said.
"It is of the utmost importance that our children can attend a school that holds their culture in the highest regard, ensuring they feel culturally safe daily.
"It is also amazing to open our school to commence the international decade of Indigenous languages and hence assert the UN declared human rights to educate our children in the way we see fit and revitalise our language and culture."
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Gumbaynggirr Giingana Freedom School (GGFS) will be located at Coffs Harbour TAFE's Glenreagh Street Campus and initially cater to kindergarten, year 1 and year 2 students.
The first cohort will see 15 to 20 students start in 2022, with a BMNAC operated preschool serving as a feeder school for current and future students.
BMNAC's motto is 'two path strong', which encourages youth to be both strong in culture and strong in education.
Nathan Brennan, BMNAC Programs Director says the school will keep to this motto, and help achieve the organisations plans to revitalise the Gumbaynggirr language and its everyday use.
"The school will have a culturally-based curriculum, the GGFS has a focus on Gumbaynggirr language and culture, quality teaching based on Gumbaynggirr values, philosophies and strong community and parent engagement," he said.
"Staff will include a principal, a classroom teacher and two Gumbaynggirr language teachers who will be supported by the BMNAC Board, Executive Management team and staff group.
"We are also excited to announce the appointment of Ms Tahnee Philp as the school's first teacher."
The Gumbaynggirr Giingana Freedom School isn't open yet, but Nathan hopes they will expand as the first cohort of students gets older and enrolments increase.
"By 2023, we hope to expand to K to 4, then the following year K to 6," Nathan said.
"By the time we draw up the next five year strategic plan, I'd say we will be looking at expanding to a purpose built building, and maybe even acquiring land."
Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation is a not-for-profit who run educational programs that already engage more than 500 Aboriginal students with their local language.
Based in Coffs Harbour, their footprint extends to the Nambucca Valley in the south and Grafton in the North.
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