Brindha Punneyalingam

Brindha is a second generation Tamil-Australian high school teacher at Girraween public school where over 90% of students speak Hindi and Tamil. 

Brindha’s own experience has allowed her to lead with understanding in the classroom – encouraging her students to embrace their Australian identity, while celebrating and remembering their family heritage, roots or culture. 


[Brindha Punneyalingam]: Girraween Public School is situated in Western Sydney. The majority of the students speak English and a second language. They are either second-generation or first-generation migrants. Our school provides community languages so the teachers are there to teach content through bi-lingual education. For us, language-learning is more about identity. 

So while you still may have a different background like Tamil, or a religion, we try and really push to make sure we embrace a more inclusive Australian identity through the use of English. 

My parents came to Australia in ’95. My dad could speak English. My mum, on the other hand, spoke no English. We learnt Tamil because we had to communicate with my mum. So I can speak, but there’s always a bit of a twang to it, kind of like Tamil with an Aussie accent. 

When we promote children or adults to be multilingual definitely that’s a platform for tolerance to be developed. We find that trying to show them that you learning Tamil is not going to make you less Australian. Because they come in with these narrow notions of being an Australian and narrow notions of being a Tamil, or whatever it might be. 

So we are trying to say that those notions are just non-existent and we’re in this complete bubble that we need to burst and we’re all just one, really.

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