Puliima Conference - AUGUST 28th & 29th in MELBOURNE
The Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages was established in 1994 to address the issues of language loss and is the state body responsible for coordinating Community Language Programs throughout Victoria. These programs are run in local communities that report regularly back to VACL. The Corporation is focused on retrieving, recording and researching Aboriginal languages and providing a central resource on Victorian Aboriginal Languages with programs now looking at educational tools to teach the Indigenous community about language.
Aboriginal languages in pre-contact Australia
Prior to colonisation there were approximately 250 Indigenous languages spoken in Australia (approximately 40 in Victoria). Some of these had several varieties, and there were altogether about 500 language varieties used across Australia. Before settlement Indigenous individuals were capable of speaking five or more languages fluently. When two people met, they could identify the region each came from by the way they spoke. It was a bit like travelling across Europe and recognising which country each person comes from by their language.
Aboriginal languages in Victoria today
In recent years there has been an upsurge of interest in the Aboriginal languages of the south-eastern corner of Australia. The boundaries between one language area and another are not distinct. Rather, mixtures of vocabulary and grammatical construction exist in such regions, and so linguistic maps may show some variation about where one language ends and another begins.
Many Australian Indigenous languages have declined to a critical state. More than three-quarters of the original Australian languages have already been lost, and the survival of almost all of the remaining languages are extremely threatened.
Language alive in the community
Communities throughout Victoria, supported by VACL, are reviving their languages through language camps, workshops, school programs and educational material for children, music and dictionaries.
Aims of the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages:
- To manage the Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Language Initiative Program (ATSILIP).
- To provide and maintain a central resource for Victorian Indigenous Languages for the benefit of the local Aboriginal Communities and individual Aboriginal people of Victorian Aboriginal descent.
- To ensure that local Community Language Programs are progressing according to their benchmarks and objectives.
- To support local Aboriginal community programs with research and retrieval by supporting the language workers with advice, training and assistance when needed.
- To research and retrieve language materials from Victorian and interstate archives, so the material can be made available to local communities.
- Assist local Communities with the writing of retrieval plans.
Why is language important?
Language is important because it is a way to express identity and proud of where they come from and who they are. If a person knows a word in their language he/she is maintaining a link that has lasted thousands of years, keeping words alive that have been used by their ancestors - language is an ancestral right and it distinguishes something special about Aboriginal people from non-Aboriginal people. Language is a part of culture, and knowledge about culture is a means of empowering people. Language contributes to the wellbeing of Aboriginal communities, strengthens ties between elders and young people and improves education in general for Indigenous people of all ages.
Listen to Statement from Doris Paton, VACL Vice-Chairperson talking about language and its connection to culture, stories and the land. (approx 2 minutes)
Play Language is Culture
What services can VACL provide for your community?
Library and Research Services
The VACL Library houses a collection of materials from various sources all related to Indigenous Languages. The library is open to all people but restrictions to certain materials do apply. The Library is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm. If you are unable to visit the library, you may submit a language query (see website) or contact VACL and the language worker can undertake small-scale research on your communitys behalf. This may include translation of certain words or phrases, or research into
VACL can be a central storage place for materials relating to your communitys language. Currently VACL holds copies of old and contemporary language resources from linguistic records to educational materials and cds.
Situated within the building of the Koorie Heritage Trust in Melbournes CBD, VACL can arrange bookings for meeting rooms and facilities to provide a central meeting place for your community with access to the VACL library resources and multimedia facilities.
Project and Program Support
VACL provides assistance to Aboriginal communities to set up and administer their language programs, writing retrieval plans and funding applications and research tools. VACL can help facilitate information/training workshops with your community to undertake language projects in the promotion of languages.
VACL is now recognised by the ATO as a Public Benevolent Institution and Deductible Gift Recipient. All donations over $2 are tax deductible.
If you'd like to make a donation to VACL, please contact the VACL Office for further information.
The Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL) is proudly supported by Commonwealth Government through the Maintenance of Indigenous Languages & Records Program. Go to http://www.arts.gov.au/topics/indigenous-arts/maintenance-indigenous-languages-and-records for more information.