IRENE Hammett’s 40 years of shaping young minds have been celebrated with a Recognition of Service Award.
The great-grandmother from Hope Vale has taught three generations of students in the Far North, spreading her love for Indigenous culture and language.
“I’m semi-retired now, but the teachers want me to continue,” the 82-year-old said.
Her teaching career began in Yarrabah, before gaining her Diploma of Teaching while working at Hope Vale.
“We went down to Townsville, and had teleconferences with our lecturers. I studied for three years, and it was hard as English isn’t my first language, but I made it.”
Made it is an understatement, with the modest educator going on to teach for decades at Hope Vale, Aurukun, Laura and Cooktown, while also running cultural immersion camps with her husband Gerry at their Hope Vale property.
“We host kids with an organisation called Red Earth, they come up from places like Sydney and Melbourne and we provide cultural activities and they love it,” she said.
“They’ve never seen anything like it, they just love it here and it’s a great experience for them; we make damper, sing, go on rainforest walks and teach them about the plants and animals, have campfires and language lessons.”
Language holds an important place in Ms Hammett’s heart, who worked with Hope Vale school to provide the first Guugu Yimithirr lessons to students.
She also has several published books, and has passed on her love of language and learning to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Ms Hammett said the Queensland government award was a surprise that brought a tear to her eye.
“I didn’t know all this was going on and I really appreciated it,” she said.
“It is a beautiful plaque, and my son Harold interpreted the English into language for it which brought tears to my eyes.
“I really am very thankful that I’ve seen all those years of teaching and can see the parents I taught sending their kids to prep and think to myself, I hope they learn as much as their parents did.”