- Indigenous Story Time
Saturday 8 June
- Gayirray (Talking Together): Indigenous Writing & Storytelling
Sunday 9 June
Michael (Micklo) is a well-known local Gumbaynggirr figure, often providing ‘Welcome To Country’ ceremonies at regional events, as well as leading Indigenous language classes, camps and cultural story-telling.
‘I’m a Gumbaynggirr man from Nambucca Heads, and I was born in Macksville,’ says Michael. ‘My family lived on Bellwood Reserve, where I spent my childhood attending school and growing up with a lot of my relatives. Also the majority of my adult life was spent on the Reserve.
‘There were old people who spoke Gumbaynggirr language but did not speak it to the children, only certain words. My language was non-existent to me through most of my life until in 1997 I decided to attend Gumbaynggirr language classes at Muurrbay Language Centre. At that time, I was an early childhood teacher, and it was so hard learning my mother’s language. The sounds were unfamiliar to my ears and trying to make the sounds with my mouth was even harder. I practised by myself. I asked the teachers ‘How do I say that?’, ‘What does this mean?’ and taught what I learned to students at pre-school.
‘I heard that a course was coming up in Sydney called Masters in Indigenous Languages Education. I enrolled not knowing what to expect, what I was getting myself into. During the course and finding out about the linguistics of language, Gumbaynggirr started to come alive in me, phonology, syntax, grammar, semantics was like a different language but it made me think of how Gumbaynggirr worked and I loved it.
‘After the course I was very confident about working on my language and using it in everyday situations. It has helped immensely with my work as an educator, giving me new ideas on how to teach. Through it I changed my style of teaching.
Work opportunities are still coming at me, Board of Studies, DET, Muurrbay, TAFE, universities and other language organisations. It has opened up many doors in my Gumbaynggirr language journey across all facets of my life, and has given me back my pride as an Aboriginal man. I am passing on my knowledge and skills to other Aboriginal people so they can feel the way I feel—more connected to my language, my homeland, my people, the spirits of my homeland and most of all to my ancestors.’