Microsoft partners with NSW Department of Education to connect Indigenous students to language and culture

- November 12, 2018 2 MIN READ

Microsoft has partnered with organisations including startup Indigital, Shared Path, and the Eastern Zone Gujaga Aboriginal Corporation to launch an initiative to teach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students about their local culture and language as they learn tech skills.

The Njulgang Project first launched as a pilot program in June in partnership with the NSW Department of Education, with 20 students from five primary schools across south western Sydney attending four workshops.

Here they learned from Dharawal Elders and, using tools such as Paint 3D and Minecraft, created an augmented reality app to bring to life a Dharawal Dreaming story.

Steven Worrall, managing director of Microsoft Australia, said, “The Njulgang Project is incredibly important. With many spoken Aboriginal languages at risk of being lost, it was important that we worked together to develop a culturally appropriate program that celebrated language, while equipping students with the skills, knowledge and collaborative environment in which to succeed.”

The program was developed in collaboration with Mikaela Jade, founder of Indigital and an advisor for Microsoft’s Reconciliation Action Plan; Pip Cleaves of Design, Learn, Empower and a Microsoft Learning consultant; and incubator Shared Path.

The Njulgang Project aims to help language groups preserve and promote their culture through technology, while also equipping students with digital skills.

Mark Scott, secretary of the NSW Department of Education, added that the collaboration was a “wonderful” learning opportunity for students.

“The opportunity for our Aboriginal students to work closely with Dharawal Elders, Aboriginal digital entrepreneurs and Microsoft to bring this innovative learning resource to life is invaluable,” he said.

“The new technology has been developed under the guidance of Aboriginal people and presents the Dharawal Dreaming Story as augmented reality where students can learn about the Dharawal language.”

Also looking to promote the learning of tech skills and Indigenous entrepreneurship is LaunchVic, which in September announced $1.37 million in funding for four organisations focused on supporting entrepreneurial activity among Indigenous Victorians.

The four organisations receiving funding are Barayamal, Global Sisters, Ngarrimili, and Ngamai Moorroop Wili.

Barayamal will use its funding to deliver a pre-accelerator and accelerator program for Aboriginal startups, while Global Sisters will work with Aboriginal community partners across regional Victoria to introduce Aboriginal women in the towns of Echuca, Shepparton, and Wodonga to startup thinking.

Project Ngarrimili, a partnership between the organisations Strong Brother Strong Sister and Impact Co, received funding to run three programs across the state: ‘Ignite’ will consist of workshops aimed to inspire Aboriginal people to pursue entrepreneurship; ‘Accelerate’ will see workshops run to support pre-revenue startups to better articulate and validate their concepts; and ‘Enhance’ will be an incubator program for Aboriginal-led ventures, designed to support both cultural wellbeing and commercial needs.

RMIT University’s Ngamai Meetups, meanwhile, look to bring together diverse members of the state’s Aboriginal community and are designed to “retain a cohort of highly engaged Aboriginal entrepreneurs”.

Image: Mikaela Jade of Indigital with students. Source: Supplied.