The Story of ‘Jinkalmu’ / Indigenous Language and Culture on Display for NAIDOC’s Day in the Park

Tomorrow’s NAIDOC Street Parade and Day in the Park is a wonderful opportunity for the Douglas community to come together to honour this year’s theme “for our Elders”.

Elders have played, and continue to play, a vital role and hold a prominent place in our local community and families. They are cultural knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders, hard workers and simply beloved. 

Elders guide younger generations and pave the way for us to take the paths we can take today. Younger generations draw strength from their knowledge and experience, in everything from land management, cultural knowledge to justice and human rights.

As part of Mossman’s NAIDOC Day in the Park, look out for a special information stand manned by some very enthusiastic students from Mossman State School.

Indigenous Leaders of the Future (ILF) students will proudly showcase their newly published bilingual book, Jinkalmu (the taipan), a truly collaborative production between Kubirriwarra Kuku Yalanji bama and Mossman State School’s  2021 ILF students.   

At the outset, Kubirriwarra Elders shared the story of Jinkalmu, the taipan, with ILF students, and later assisted in the accurate translation of the story. An art workshop to help illustrate the story was facilitated by  Kubirriwarra Kuku Yalanji artist, Ayesha Seaton. The graphic design process of converting the text and collated art was facilitated by Jayne Miller from Renegade Moss, working closely with the group to convert their concept to a published format.   Jinkalmu was officially launched at the recent Mossman State School 125 year celebrations, and copies will be on sale tomorrow at NAIDOC Day in the Park.

All Images Credit/ Mossman State School

ILF students who worked on the book 

Juakene Walker

Tomar Kessler-Thorburn

Zane Lancaster

Laiko Sagiba                 

Mili Walker                              

Zahkyann Grogan-Ryan

Erma Kynuna                

Shannon Young            

Ronasia Charlie

Camelia Buchanan        

Davarn Hobbler

Jinkalmu is dedicated to Ngadijina Milbirrba (Wilma Walker), a Traditional Custodian of the story. Contributors for the book acknowledge the Kubirriwarra bama of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji nation for sharing and granting permission to use their story.  

Please note / This book includes Kubirriwarra, Kuku Yalanji cultural knowledge and cultural expression. This cultural knowledge and cultural expression is included with the prior informed consent of the traditional custodians for the purposes of teaching Kuku Yalanji language as part of the Mossman State School Language Program and as a resource to be used by the Kubirriwarra, Kuku Yalanji people to pass on and share culture. The knowledge and cultural expression contained in this resource must not be used without the prior informed consent of the Kuku Yalanji Culture and Language Advisory Group (KYCLAG), proper recognition and attribution to the owners and the sharing of benefits.

Mossman State School’s Kuku Yalanji language program

Our local Indigenous language, Kuku Yalanji, forms an important part of Mossman State School’s  language program. Kuku Yalanji is the language of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people (from the Mowbray River in the south to the Annan River in the north) has been sleeping in our community and is largely only spoken by our older generations, with only a handful of remaining fluent speakers. Over 50 per cent of students at Mossman State School  identify as Indigenous and as the School sits firmly on Kuku Yalanji land, the teachers and support staff and families  are deeply passionate about ensuring  their students proud of their language and culture and continue to share it with their Elders. 

Sharon Case is Head of Teaching and Learning at Mossman State School, and describes how their award-winning Language program came about,

  “We hoped that by developing a community-lead, community-driven and community co-designed Indigenous language program, we could address many of the wrongs of the past by valuing and embedding Indigenous culture and language in our curriculum and our school and rebuild the cultural identity of our Indigenous students, families and community. 

The program began with an 18-month community consultation process. Consultation forums were held in community, off school grounds – a safe space needed to be created to allow for truth telling. The community was consulted about how they felt about teaching language at school, the negatives, positives etc. 

The community consultation process is the most important part of the whole process. As our principal, Randal Smith, says: “Everybody has a story to tell, everybody wants to be able to tell their story and everyone wants to have their story heard.”

We need to create a safe space for that truth telling to take place and we need to listen, with all our hearts.  A language agreement was then signed to ensure that our community knew that we were serious about the project, and that it was sustainable and not dependant on the leadership team at the school (which of course will change over time).

The Kuku Yalanji Language Advisory Group (KYLAG), made up of community elders and clan representatives, was developed to oversee the program at the school and in the community. “

In 2019, the Indigenous language program was embedded in to Mossman State School’s curriculum and is taught for students from Prep-Y4.

KYLAG meets regularly at the school, approving all units of work and resources.

“We have seen increases in Indigenous student engagement, attendance and achievement and a huge increase in community engagement in our school, with Elders coming in to assist with our languages program.

We conducted a survey of our school community and the results were overwhelmingly positive among students, parents and staff.

Our favourite quote was from little Maricka in Year One, who said: “I like (learning my language) because my heart feels light when I talk my language.”

We think that this epitomises what this program is all about – building self-esteem and cultural identity.  Our Indigenous communities need our schools to bring their languages back, to help build the cultural identity of our children.

Reviving our Indigenous languages and valuing and embedding Indigenous language and culture in our schools makes our kids, our schools and our communities stronger.  Our Indigenous students have a right to learn their language and it’s our job to make sure that that happens. It is also important that we ensure that our non-Indigenous students understand, value and appreciate the importance of our Indigenous languages and culture.  ” (Queensland Teacher’s Journal)

Everybody interested can learn our Iocal Indigenous language with a free app that can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play (search ‘Kuku Yalanji’)  

In 2019, Mossman State School was recognised as an outstanding winner at the Queensland Reconciliation Awards

• Premier’s Reconciliation Award
Mossman State School and Kuku Yalanji Language Advisory Group for Respect and Consultation: Honouring Kuku Yalanji Language at Mossman State Primary School • Partnership category proudly supported by Lendlease
Mossman State School and Kuku Yalanji Language Advisory Group for Respect and Consultation: Honouring Kuku Yalanji Language at Mossman State Primary School    

Pop down to George Davis Park in Mossman tomorrow from 10.30am to take home your own copy of Jinkalmu, a collaborative expression of Indigenous language and art, and the significance it plays in our community’s culture.  


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