Wergaia Language Workshop - Horsham
08 October 2005
VACL recently attended the Wergaia Language workshop held in Horsham. The workshop was organized by the Department of Education on behalf of the Wotjobaluk people to investigate methods of reviving the local language particularly through the education system. Little ones, teenagers and elders from the local community as well as community linguists and teachers, were in attendance.
It was inspiring to see so many eager faces ready to talk about what processes were involved in the complicated journey of language revival that the community were preparing to embark on. Marjorie Pickford the Koorie Education Development Officer for the Central Highlands Wimmera Region and Peter Shaw-Truex from the Department of Education gave an overview of the workshops program and facilitated activities for the two days. Everyone was then given a handout of Wergaia greetings (prepared by Dr Heather Bowe and Dr Julie Reid of Monash University) and we asked one another our names and how we were feeling in Wergaia language.
"Nyarri-ngin" - "What is your name?"
"Peter-ngan" - "I am Peter. "
"Dalgug-ngin" - "Are you good?"
"Nga, dalgug-ngan" - "Yes, Im good."
This was an empowering activity that gave a positive approach to the day. Peter and Stuart Harradine and Peter Kennedy all spoke about the history of the local area and Julie Reid spoke about the Wergaia language recordings, which are held at AIATSIS in Canberra, VACL in Melbourne also has copies of these tapes. Doris Paton, Lynn Solomon-Dent and Rex Solomon gave a presentation on the program at Woolum-Bellum KODE in Morwell where they have implemented over the past ten years the development and teaching of the Gunnai/ Kurnai language. Their knowledge and experience was insightful and relevant and generated a lot of questions from the floor on the processes and issues used and encountered. A really important point was the reference committee made up of the community elders who approve and guide all steps taken in teaching and reviving the language. To close the first day Heather Bowe (Monash), Maree Dellora (VCAA) and Doris Paton (VACL) gave an overview of Indigenous language programs across the state.
Early the next morning we all headed out to Ebenezer Mission, which opened in 1859 and closed in 1904. Peter and Stuart Harradine guided us through the grounds and showed us the unmarked graves of the Koories that were buried there, the tombstones of the missionaries and the old church that was recently restored. It was a special privilege to walk on their country and to hear the stories of the ancestors from that land. Everyone then headed back to town and after another beautiful lunch together everyone sat down to debrief and the local mob shared what they had gotten from the workshop and discussed the possible steps they might take from there. We hope VACL might be able to offer assistance to them in the future and we thank the traditional owners for inviting us to be a part of this important time.
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