Connecting to Country workshops provide awareness of Dhanggati Aboriginal language and culture

Busways’ Kempsey depot operates bus services on Dhangatti land and we pay respect to their elders past and present.

Note: These workshops were deferred until later this year due to health restrictions.

For millennia, Australia’s Aboriginal elders have been working with the younger generations to pass on their language and culture histories so they can be carried on for years to come.

Caroline Bradshaw, an Aunty in Kempsey, has been working since the late 1980s to revive the Dhanggati language in the Kempsey area. Caroline is part of the Macleay Valley Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (Macleay Valley Local AECG).

The AECG works in consultation with the local schools, sharing language, culture, history and stories, in hope that teachers will better understand where Aboriginal children come from.

The group works to tell historical stories to local youth by working with schools, so their language and culture lives on for years to come. The group also supports local Aboriginal children in their learning development.

“We have come a long way,” Caroline said. “We have continued to get out there and work with the Department of Education to bring this level of information to schools through cultural activities like dance and dreaming stories.”

While Covid has thrown a spanner in the works in recent times for engaging with schools, the consultative group are back at it and will be hosting Connecting to Country workshops with 25 teachers from the local area, supported by a free charter bus from Busways.

Connecting to Country is an Aboriginal community cultural awareness teaching programme. This programme provides a much-needed cultural conduit between the states teaching fraternity and Aboriginal peoples and communities. Teachers are offered a unique opportunity to engage directly with Aboriginal Australians at the local community level.

"At Busways, we are continuing on our journey to learn through partnerships and consultation about Aboriginal heritage, culture and stories within our operating regions, such as Kempsey," said Carly Bowman, who is a project lead on Busways' Aboriginal Employment Strategy team.

Busways’ bus driver Wayne Holten from Port Macquarie will be carrying the group of Elders and school teachers to South West Rocks, Jerrysville, Summer Island Road, Smithtown, Kempsey and Bellbrook.


Sugarloaf Mountain
Barralbarayi - Anderson's Sugarloaf Mountain in Bellbrook.


Wayne identifies as an Aboriginal person and claims the Dhanggati language.

“It’s very special to me to be doing this charter as it’s my local area – my grandparents are from here and I enjoy passing on my knowledge and culture of the area,” Wayne said.

Caroline said the workshops “provide teachers with a little taste of the history and culture within these communities”.

“We talk to them about the stolen generation and tell stories. We show them significant landmarks in the area and speak about growing up here,” Caroline said.

Caroline reiterated the importance of these programs and activities run by the consultative group which include providing insight to the teachers about why Aboriginal youth may struggle at school and ensuring they have the support they need.

“We want to make school better for our kids and we work positively with teachers to show them how they can help improve their education – we encourage them to develop understanding about the local culture which they’re very receptive to. The kids achieve a lot more when they know their culture is valued by others,” Caroline said.

The consultative group’s work never stops, and especially resonates during special days recognising indigenous people, so it is fitting that their Connecting to Country workshop will be held just after the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August.

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is a day to raise awareness and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population. It also recognises the contributions that indigenous people make to improve world issues such as environmental protection.