BCE empowering its schools to teach First Nations languages

Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) has announced a First Nations Language Curriculum aimed at empowering its 77,000 students to engage authentically and sensitively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities. 

This National Reconciliation Week (27 May to 2 June), BCE shared its new whole-system approach to teaching First Nations language across its 146 schools. 

Senior Manager of Aboriginal and Torres Stair Islander Education and Gamilaraay and Yuwalaraay woman Dr Mayrah Dreise said BCE used the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) framework and consulted with Ngutania-Lui Cultural Centre Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff members to create the system-wide approach.  

“It creates a real sense of genuine connection between our students and their local First Nation Peoples and Language Groups, empowering our students to continue to build strong bonds with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” she said. 

“Students from as young as Prep will learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander song, dance, art, and language within a context which makes sense to their geographic location and connection to local First Nations Peoples and Groups. 

“As the curriculum progresses into the senior years, our Year 9 and 10 students learn about the impacts of language loss and separation from country, family, and community for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.” 

Dr Dreise said it is important all BCE students have the knowledge to preserve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and culture for future generations.

“For the longest time students have learned languages from overseas as part of the Australian Curriculum,” she said. 

“We feel it is important all students, and especially our First Nations students, have the opportunity to learn the language and culture of the world’s oldest living culture. 

“Being part of the world’s oldest living culture is something we want our students to feel proud of, and connecting them to culture, country, and language is one way we can do this.”  

Dr Dreise said BCE schools have the opportunity to consult with their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, groups, organisations, and Elders to implement the curriculum within their school, within a context which makes sense to their community. 

“Each school may choose to teach a different Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language, specific to their school community and location,” she said. 

“Schools at the forefront of this consultation process include St Joseph's Tobruk Memorial School Beenleigh, St Paul's School Woodridge and St Joseph's School Murgon.​

BCE schools will have access to the First Nations Language Curriculum for consideration, consultation and implementation from Semester 2, 2023. 
About Dr Mayrah Dreise: 


Dr Dreise is heavily involved within the Yuwalaraay community as a traditional Song Woman and has years of critical and evidence-based research, producing an inspiring array of published papers and policies.  She joined BCE in 2022 after being in the role of Associate Professor for Indigenous Education at the Australian Catholic University. Her leadership experience includes Director of Dinjerra Enterprises, Principal at Dirranbandi State School, Principal at Harlaxton State School, Indigenous Project Leader within Oodgeroo Unit, and various faculties at QUT.    


Acknowledgment of Country  

Brisbane Catholic Education acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which each office and school are connected to the earth. We acknowledge those who have walked and cared for this sacred land for thousands of years and their descendants who maintain their spiritual connection and traditions. We pay our respects to the Elders. Those who walked before us, those who walk beside us, and those who will continue to educate after us. We thank them for sharing their cultures, spiritualities, and ways of living with the land, in this place we now call home. We give thanks to our First Nations employees for their openness and strength. May we continue to walk gently and respectfully together. ​

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