Thornlie Primary Chaplain learning Noongar to build stronger relationships with students


School chaplain Christine Thomas with Thornlie Primary School students Shanisha Yarran (11), Rhiana Toomath (10) and Shelea Krakouer (10) playing a card game. Picture: Marie Nirme
School chaplain Christine Thomas with Thornlie Primary School students Shanisha Yarran (11), Rhiana Toomath (10) and Shelea Krakouer (10) playing a card game. Picture: Marie Nirme

THORNLIE Primary School and YouthCARE chaplain Christine Thomas has built stronger relationships with her students by learning Noongar.

Ms Thomas has been going to the Langford Aboriginal Association once a week for the past year Noongar classes.

She has been teaching at the school for more than eight years and although she is not Aboriginal, decided to take on the classes to help better connect with students.

After a few lessons, she decided to start Noongar Language Groups, which run at the school at the beginning of lunch.

She decided to do the lessons to support students, teach them about the language and connect with them.

“The students bring their lunch and we greet each other, ask each other how we are doing and play games, sing songs or do activities around sticky hands and mouthfuls of food, all in Noongar ,” she said.

“I’d like to be able to communicate properly in Noongar and carry on a conversation.

“Noongar is very different to European languages as there are a lot of sounds we don’t use in English,” she said.

“There are only about 250 fluent speakers of Noongar in the state and it is challenging for language experts to talk to elders and try to learn the language before it is lost.”

As a school chaplain, her role is to care for students and their families as well as listen to them and run some social and emotion programs at the school.

She said she went to the classes off her own back after hearing about it from a colleague.

Ms Thomas said she was involved in the beginner and advanced Noongar classes and will continue to learn.

Noongar is not the first language she has attempted, having learned German when she was at school.