After several years of research, the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation of Languages (VACL) held a multi-book launch on the 10th of June to celebrate the release of three new publications. Each of these publications plays a role in celebrating VACL’s 20th year of language revival in Victoria.
The Journey Cycles of the Boonwurrung – 2nd Edition builds on the first edition written by Aunty Carolyn Briggs, and is a compilation of traditional Boonwurrung stories written with Boonwurrung Language. The book is significant in raising awareness of the connection to country, language and heritage for the people living on Boonwurrung land.
tyama-teeyt yookapa: Interviews from the Meeting Point Project is a collection of stories, reflections and hopes about Language revival in Australian Aboriginal communities extracted from a series of interviews carried out during 2009-10. It contains insights into every aspect of language revival from culture, relationships and identity, through grammar, sounds and spelling, to considerations of collaborative research and the meaning of authenticity.
The Journal of Assistant Protector William Thomas 1839-67 is to be released as a four-volume set. These books contain extensive transcribed and annotated text, images of the original text, and a volume of the Kulin language drawn from Thomas’s journals. Thomas is one of the few Europeans who described the cultural life of Aboriginal Australians with a sense of empathy; as a result his journals are one of the most important primary sources in Australian history.
The release of these new publications is part of the continuing movement to retrieve, revive and strengthen Indigenous Languages for Aboriginal people in Australia and demonstrates VACL’s continued commitment to supporting communities in the revival of Indigenous Languages for Aboriginal people in Australia.
From an article featured in The Standard by Sean McComish about our own Joel Wright:
Kirkstall resident Joel Wright is co-ordinator of the South West Aboriginal Language Program, which is helping to revive local indigenous languages through the region’s schools.
A REVIVAL is quietly taking place in classrooms across the south-west.
Unknown to most outside the Aboriginal community, the region is home to at least 10 indigenous language groups, taking in Gadubanud in the Otways to Dauwurd Wurrung in the Glenelg region.
Three weeks ago students at Brauer College finished a month-long pilot program studying local indigenous languages.
Warrnambool College will launch a similar program in June.
Pushed to the brink of extinction by colonisation, Aboriginal languages are making a strong comeback thanks to schools and a passionate campaigner.
Joel Wright’s dining room table is covered with maps and phrasebooks. For the past 10 years he has worked to bring back languages like Dhauwurd Wurrung in the Glenelg region and Peek Woorroong in the Warrnambool region.
He works as the south-west co-ordinator for the Victorian Aboriginal Language Program — a Commonwealth-funded body.
“We’re only just scratching the surface with the program,” Mr Wright told The Standard.
“Because Victoria is in a situation where all of the languages are revival languages. We’ve got four different categories of languages — living languages, endangered languages, revival languages and extinct languages.
“We’re in the third category so there’s a protocol that really needs to be achieved first and that is that the indigenous mob need to have the opportunity and support to be able to reclaim the language to revive it in the community.
“The last known fluent speakers of the language died approximately 110 years ago. And that’s pretty much the case with most of the 38 language groups right across Victoria.”
Mr Wright’s family came from Framlingham and Lake Condah where English was almost the only language spoken at home. Because of his pale skin, his mother — fearing her son would be taken by authorities under stolen generation-era policies — kept the family on the road.
That travel first revealed to him the invaluable collection of indigenous languages spanning regions from Victoria to Western Australia.
“It developed my ear and understanding at a very early age about how language sounds,” he said.
“Language is a fantastic way of demonstrating how sophisticated Aboriginal ways of thinking and doing were and are.”
From his home in Kirkstall, Mr Wright is trying to revive millennia-old languages in local schools.
In June students at Warrnambool College will be given the opportunity for the first time to learn local languages as part of a five-week pilot project.
“We’ll be doing a revival and reclamation program that will be offered to the junior levels,” the college’s assistant principal Adam Matheson explained.
“If we don’t teach the students indigenous languages they will be lost. It’s been the biggest push from both colleges (Warrnambool and Brauer) as a joint program.”
If the program goes well it will become a permanent part of the curriculum, alongside French and Japanese.
“We’d be looking to introduce local indigenous languages as a LOTE program in 2015,” Mr Matheson said.
Heywood and District Secondary College has been one of a handful of schools in Victoria teaching language classes. Program co-ordinator Steph Tashkoff said it had been successful in years 7 and 8 for three years.
“We feel very proud that we’re able to offer a language and culture program. They get a real sense of the country that they are on,” Ms Tashkoff said.
The program has gone beyond language and students are immersed in the culture, visiting indigenous sites around the region.
Meanwhile, OzChild has also been given funding to start language lessons with playgroups.
However, Mr Wright said efforts to save languages would be held back unless the state government funded community programs.
“If you look at community language schools, there’s 185 of them across Victoria that are funded through state government and not one of them is an Aboriginal language. They’re for every other language around the world. There really isn’t the support base there,” Mr Wright said.
VACL author and Board Member Bruce Pascoe spoke on ABC radio last week in a fascinating discussion about his new book Dark Emu. Bruce explained how his research uncovered compelling evidence challenging conventional beliefs about Aboriginal People’s way of working and being on the land in pre-colonial Australia. If you missed it, don’t forget to click below to listen to the full recording.
VACL held an exciting Dhauwurd Wurrung Language Workshop for the Heywood & District Secondary College in November Last year. Over the two days, the group was introduced to the subject of language sources and language families, and by the end of the second day, were able to introduce themselves, where they came from and do a "Welcome to Country" in their own language. Communities that want to run similar workshops are encouraged to get involved with VACL.
Book author Sue Atkinson and illustrator Annette Sax teamed up with VACL to create the new children’s series published in 2013. The books uses vocabulary from the traditional language of the Yorta Yorta people from north-east Victoria. The books are available for sale through VACL or Yarn Strong Sista, $22.95 each or $65.00 for the set of 3.
VACL has collaborated with Brendan Kennedy from the Tati Tati Aboriginal Corporation in Robinvale to publish his songs and stories translated into traditional Tati Tati, Mutti Mutti and Wadi Wadi languages of North Western Victoria.
Brendan has written dozens of songs and stories, from which nine were chosen to be included in this book, sharing local stories and connecting to country.
"I was born on the flood grounds of the Murray River on my Ancestral lands in Tati Tati Country. I dedicate this book of language songs and stories to my mother's people, River people and Mallee people because these songs and stories are about their land, water and animals." - Brendan Kennedy
Please contact VACL for more information about this publication.
To see Brendan reading one of the stories from this book, check out the video link below.
To learn more about Brendan, you can view his profile on our board members page here.
There are many elements to starting a Language Program. We have written a guide for planning a successful program called Peetyawan Weeyn. We can visit your community to assist in the implementation and training of this guide.
We also have limited funds available to partner with communities to undertake a language project. Below are the guidelines and application form for working with us on a language project.
The current round of Community Language Partnership Program are open from 1st July 2016 to 30th June 2017
Introduction to the Wadawurrung Language of the region that encompasses the Geelong and Ballarat areas of Victoria. Produced in partnership with the Wathaurung Aboriginal Corporation and the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages.
Click on the icon above for free download on iOS devices.