The Growth of Dunghutti in Walcha

National Volunteers Week 2019 - Reggae Towney

Late Autumn afternoons in Walcha get pretty cold.

With the temperature dropping to 3 degrees Celsius in May, the small town bunkers down for even colder days and nights ahead.

But you wouldn't know it in one building in the centre of town, where a large group of locals gather every Friday afternoon to learn their ancestral Dunghutti language.

Inside the Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC), up to 30 people study, laugh, sing and share in the language that their teacher hopes will continue to unite them all.

The weekly class is the brainchild of Dunghutti woman Reggae Towney, who got the ball rolling two years ago, with the support of Amaroo LALC.

It's a labour of love for Reggae, who has spent countless hours increasing her Dunghutti fluency, planning lessons, and organising the weekly class.

"I include games to keep the children interested, do traditional art to engage their creativity, and try to increase their vocabulary by four words a week," she said.

And it's not only children who attend Reggae's classes; adults also participate, so families can speak in Dunghutti outside the classroom.

"Even my Dad comes to study," she laughed.

"He's been my greatest support. We started to do our learning together a number of years ago, regularly travelled to Kempsey to be taught by Elders there, and once they determined I knew enough, I was given cultural permission to teach."

Reggae says two Dunghutti women, Carolyn Bradshaw and Esther Quinlan (dec) started her on her path, and Carolyn continues to guide the young teacher.

"The two Aunts have been incredible with sharing their knowledge and making sure I'm fit to carry the language on. Esther gave me the power and the motivation to do it when I doubted myself. And Carolyn pushes me to continue."

Reggae volunteers her expertise and has every intention of continuing the work.

"I wanted my kids to learn their cultural mother tongue, and all the local Dunghutti kids to be able to speak together in language. Someone had to step forward to start classes, so I decided I was that person.

"I think it's really important for people to volunteer their knowledge because it costs nothing to share. It's like a tree - you need to look after it and should also be generous with the fruit, so everyone can benefit."