Uncle Michael Jarrett

CEL workshop facilitator

My name is Michael Jarrett and I am a Gumbaynggirr Man from Nambucca Heads. I was born in a small town called Macksville on the Mid North Coast.

My family lived on Bellwood Reserve, where I spent all 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 hard and fast, 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. I feel more connected to my language, my homeland, my people, the spirits of my homeland and most of all to my ancestors.