Mathew Gardiner beams with pride as he helps prep pupils with the sounds of the Woi Wurrung language, which has been “dormant” for several decades.
The Wurundjeri Willam man travels from Narre Warren South to Melton West Primary School twice a week to “revive and revitalise” his language.
“My language … has been ‘sleeping’ for so long,” Mr Gardiner says.
“It’s very important for me to bring it back and bring it alive.
“Watching an ethnic person talk their language you can see the honour and pride they have … and it’s very much the same for me.”
He hopes learning a Koori language will bring people together, forge friendships and foster greater understanding.
“As we say in my language ‘jindi woraback’, which means ‘join, unite’.”
School principal Michelle Costa says Mr Gardiner has been teaching at Melton West Primary School since second term, and pupils have been “very receptive”.
“[It’s important] to help revive a language that’s in decline and increase our students’ understanding of the local Aboriginal culture, traditions, stories and songs,” Ms Costa |said.
“The plan is for [language lessons] to move up the school with the students and the new prep cohort each year to learn it as well.”