Wajarri Language Nest Pilot Stage 1

Bundiyarra Irra Wangga Language Program, Geraldton

August to September 2013

Bundiyarra logoThe Wajarri Language Nest Pilot Stage 1 tested the viability of using ‘language nests’ to transmit Wajarri to pre-primary children and their parents, many of whom have not had significant exposure to the language.  Wajarri is the strongest Indigenous group and most widespread spoken language of the Mid-west region of Western Australia.  However, although over 200 people identify as Wajarri, less than 30 still know and speak the language.  The project was run at Meekawaya Aboriginal Preprimary School in Geraldton, which has a 100% Aboriginal student population.

The Language Nest Model

The language nest model recognises the necessity of intergenerational transmission, using activities conducted in language to pass language from the older generation to younger generations.  Two Wajarri speakers from the local community were employed to help facilitate a weekly two hour activity session for 4 and 5 year old children at Meekawaya PP.  Running for six weeks, the activitiy sessions incorporated storytelling, singing and dancing and games with instruction in language and some directed language teaching.  The focus is on exposure to language rather than structured language teaching.  Critically, the project also provides a school-based language and cultural component to supplement the current mainstream school curriculum.


The pilot was extremely successful, significantly raising the status and visibilitiy of the Wajarri language within both the Aboriginal and broader community. Observed outcomes include:

  • provision of excellent cultural role modelling to children through introduction to their language and cultural identity by Aboriginal language speakers
  • increased awareness, pride and engagement with Wajarri language amongst participating children
  • improved confidence and willingness to participate amongst shyer children
  • expressed interest in learning Wajarri language amongst the participant children’s parent group
  • greater personal confidence and enhanced skills amongst the Wajarri facilitators, who initially doubted their ability to share language in a classroom environment
  • increased interest in home-based intergenerational transmission within one facilitator’s family, including heightened language exchange with her fluent Wajarri speaking mother
  • commitment by the class teacher to attend future weekly language sessions
  • enrolment by the pre-primary AIEO (Aboriginal and Islander Education Officer) in the Specialist Language Teaching Training run by WA Department of Education
  • a high level of engagement with the language transmission model amongst the Wajarri facilitators and Meekawaya’s principal and staff
  • a desire by the school’s principal to expand the project to the wider school community
  • local media coverage of the project


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