Last month, Paul travelled to Sydney to participate in the three day Indigenous Digital Excellence Summit. Day 1 was packed full of presentations ranging from entrepreneurs who've utilised digital technology to achieve business success, academics spoke about the number of Indigenous people completing IT courses (which is very low) and what the future of jobs looks like and how we need to be prepared for this. Paul also spoke from the viewpoint of using digital excellence in revitalising culture demonstrating the iPad Apps which we developed last year.
The next two days were focused on constructing and working towards the development of a National Indigenous Digital Excellence Strategy. The strategy will focus on areas such as Employment, Health, Entrepreneurship, Education and Culture. Experts from the digital industry joined the group on the last day to provide their professional contributions with the closing address left to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to give priority to this important strategy and a commitment of future funding to see it realised.
As a bonus, Paul gave the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a brief tour of one of our Apps which were on display after the summit!
John ‘Uncle Sandy’ Atkinson was a Bangerang Elder born at Cummeragunja Mission, in 1932. An influential figure in Aboriginal affairs and an important custodian of Aboriginal culture, Uncle Sandy’s achievements are vast.
After a childhood spent on the banks of the Murray River building boats, collecting duck eggs and learning how to hunt and fish, in 1953 Uncle Sandy met and married the love of his life, Gwen Thorpe. Together they had five children and eventually settled in Tatura, near Shepparton, where they involved themselves in all aspects of community life and remain highly respected in the local area.
In addition to serving over 21 years as Chairperson on the VACL Board, Uncle Sandy’s achievements include: founder of the Shepparton Keeping Place; founder of the Rhumbalara Medical Co-Operative; working for Aboriginal Affairs; Chairman of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Arts Board of Australia Council; Vice Chairperson of the Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages and Culture (FATSILC) and Commissioner for the Aboriginal Development Commission. He was a central part of the Koorie Heritage Trust since its beginning and also maintained a long and vital link to Museum Victoria, most recently contributing to the First Peoples exhibition as a Yulendj member.
Uncle Sandy was also a talented musician who taught himself to play the pedal steel guitar, which he played for over 60 years, and travelled annually to Gympie in Queensland for the town’s renowned music muster.
In 1983, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia, in recognition of his service to Aboriginal arts and in 2012 was inducted into the Victorian Indigenous Honour Roll.
Speaking of his role here at the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages, our Executive Officer Paul Paton reflects, “Uncle Sandy was our Chairperson and to this day, he was our first and only Chairperson. My mum would often say when we would celebrate any of our successeses, “the best $50 ever spent” and what she was referring to was when VACL was born, back in 1994, Uncle Sandy used $50 of his own money to register the organisation, paving the way for language revival in Victoria. We are forever indebted to him for this.
Uncle Sandy showed a commitment rarely seen in that he always made himself available for meetings, events and would speak to anyone if they showed an interest. He would be the first to volunteer to travel around the country to support and promote languages with one of his frequent sayings that language has to be relevant.”
Uncle Sandy’s dedication, passion and enthusiasm for the revival of our languages at the community, state and national level has been inspirational.
We will miss his enthusiasm, his leadership, his stories, his warmth and respect to all of us. In our work and in our own lives we will remember him always.
“Language is the first thing in our culture that can become lost. We should not let it happen.” Uncle Sandy.
Rest in peace Uncle, your vision is in good hands.
The Melton West Primary School Language Program began in April 2016, with Mathew Gardiner teaching Woi wurrung, the language of the Wurundjeri people on whose land the school is situated. Prep students are currently engaged in a 10 week program where they are learning kinship & relationships, colour & counting, body parts and greeting phrases. Wurundjeri Educator Mathew Gardiner says the "first day the kids and I hit it off like a house on fire, also with the teachers I received a very warm welcome by all. I am very happy and proud". Both teachers and students are excited to have this new program up and running in the school.
To read more about the program at ABC News click here
Read about Mathew's success in the Star Weekly click here
Listen to Mathew on 774 ABC Melbourne
Photo: Wurundjeri man and Woi wurrung educator Mathew Gardiner with Melton West Primary School student Mary Jane
Photo curtesty of ABC Local, Clare Rawlinson
With the knowledge that language is the key tool to understanding and celebrating culture, it is natural that language provides the keystone to informing and inspiring creative projects and artistic expression. Our model for the creative revival of Aboriginal languages is a living example of Community Cultural Development practice, strengthening communities as well as language and culture. Our work in the field of creative language revival and cultural revitalisation through the Arts is leading edge and meets a growing need in the community. Creative Language Revival Projects contribute to cultural strengthening, health and well-being, educational opportunities and reconciliation.
VACL makes a significant contribution to the creative and cultural identity of Victoria by increasing the body of Aboriginal language and enhancing the cultural profile of Victoria. We achieve this through close partnerships with creative and cultural organisations such as Banmirra Arts Inc, Ilbijerri Theatre Company, The Wheeler Centre, Museum Victoria, Bunjilaka, Koorie Heritage Trust, Immigration Museum, Aboriginal Community Cooperatives, Melbourne Festival, Kiwa Digital, Miromaa Aboriginal Language and Technology Centre, Footscray Community Arts Centre , Sistagirl Productions, Reconciliation Victoria and State Library of Victoria drawing attention to the uniqueness of South-eastern Australian Aboriginal culture. Through these collaborations, we have participated in high profile creative events, festivals and programs such as The Light in Winter, Shearwater Festival, White Night, Next Wave, Blak and Bright and Festival of Pacific Arts.
Below are some highlights and examples of the many ways in which language underpins creative expression:
Gunditjmara/Gunai man Corey Theatre is a singer songwriter whose use of language extends him as a musician to be able to sing in traditional language. Corey has attended VACL workshops and is a strong believer in the power of language and its use in music. Corey continues to strengthen his knowledge through a collaborative journey of language revival and musical expression.
To hear some of Corey's music, visit Corey Theatre Music.
The Shearwater Short Tales program featured many musical collaborations including a song-writing and language revival project with self-selected Grades 5 and 6 students from Wonthaggi North Primary School, Kutcha Edwards and Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir, which lead to a ten-minute performance at the Shearwater Festival at Philip Island.
Learn more about the Shearwater Short Tales Creative Development Workshops held in 2015.
In addition to the promotion and publication of books in Victorian Aboriginal languages, VACL plays an ongoing role in Victoria's literary programs including holding seminars, workshops, presentations, readings and discussions. These have included a panel discussion at the Wheeler Centre, readings of digital storybook apps as part of the Blak and Bright: The Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival, translation work and reading for National Simultaneous Storytime and presentations on language revival at State Library Victoria.
The upcoming book 'Living Connections' by Lisa Kennedy is a visual narrative with Boonwurrung translations resulting from a partnership with VACL language worker and Boonwurrung Elder Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir. The book features Lisa's exquisite watercolour paintings alongside text in both English and Boonwurrung which details the journey of the Shearwater birds and connection to country.
The award-winning ‘Biyadin: The Shearwater Festival’ is held annually on Phillip Island. The Festival is auspiced by VACL in partnership with Bass Coast Shire Council and the Phillip Island Nature Park and has a strong focus on Aboriginal language revival and cultural regeneration. The Festival is preceded by an Education and Community Engagement Program in which Aboriginal Elders, linguists, artists and environmentalists work with children, teachers and community members to teach language and culture. A range of creative resources are developed from this work that are incorporated into the Festival and, where appropriate, are subsequently used for educational purposes.
VACL also works with leading contemporary arts festivals such as Next Wave Festival where we not only feature in the program of events hosting workshops in collaboration with artists on topics such as traditional cloak making, identity, returning to place and connecting to country through language, but have assisted the festival team in imbedding language in their guides, maps and programs through incorporating Aboriginal place names and locations.
VACL’s creative collaborations include public events such as ‘Tanderrum’, a ceremony performed at the Opening of the Melbourne Festival in Federation Square and the Official Opening of White Night in Melbourne at the Exhibition Building. These projects entailed extensive work with musicians, dancers, Elders and children from Aboriginal communities from the Kulin Nation facilitated by the Ilbijerri Theatre Company and with linguistic and creative leadership provided by VACL staff.
Watch a video of Tanderrum.
The Djirri Djirri Dance Group create dances which are contemporary interpretations of Wurundjeri culture with the essence of traditional dance/ceremony. Djirri Djirri is the Woi wurrung name for the Willy Wagtail. The group have many children who are encouraged to take on leadership roles through the use of language and knowledge exchange in dance creation. The group is led by VACL language worker Mandy Nicholson who has written many songs and chants in language which accompany these dances.
Watch the Djirri Djirri Dance Group perform Heartbeat of the Earth at the Shearwater Festival 2015.
VACL has played a leading role in creating digital language resources to support language learning in both communities and schools. Eighteen apps are now available on the VACL iTunes Store, all of which feature unique artwork created by local Aboriginal artists and in creative workshops with Primary and Secondary students across Victoria. These apps have generated a large interest in Victorian Aboriginal languages on a global platform, receiving wide coverage in the print media and radio and international recognition for Dulaiwurrung Mungka-nj-bulanj (How the Platypus Was Made) which won an award for excellence at the 2015 Digital Children’s Book Fair in Japan. This award led to an invitation to be part of a World Exhibition "Digital Ehon de Hirogaru Sekai Exhibition" at Children's Discovery Center Hachirabo (Tokyo, Shibuya).
To download VACL apps visit our iTunes Store.
Language worker, teacher, craftsman and visual artist and VACL Board Member Brendan Kennedy holds language as a central key to culture and creativity. With support from VACL, Brendan has published a collection of his songs and stories in Tati Tati, Mutti Mutti and Wadi Wadi languages. The publication titled Wangilatha Wangu Kiyawatha is a beautiful collection of Language songs and stories about the land, water, and animals of the Murray River people and Mallee people (Brendan's mother's people). The book is brimming with colour, illustrated with Brendan's digital artworks.
Watch a video of Brendan reading one of the stories from Wangilatha Wangu Kiyawatha.
Ngangu biik: Hear, Understand Country, produced by Wurundjeri visual artist Mandy Nicholson and Elder Aunty Diane Kerr, was displayed on the Signal screens in Northbank, Melbourne from August 14 to 22, 2015. This multi-media experience showcased Wurundjeri's living culture through Elder Aunty Diane Kerr. This journey is depicted through projection imagery and audio of her Mother Tongue, Woiwurrung. This event also celebrated the unveiling of her ceremonial walert-walert (possum skin cloak).
Watch a video documentation of this artwork here.
For thousands of years people from all around the world have looked to the night sky to connect with their creation stories, seasonal changes and navigation through land and the seas. Storytelling and the exchange of traditional cultural stories is a vehicle for cross-cultural understanding and celebration. Uncle Larry Walsh along with Koorie Community, Pacific Island Nations and members from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre put together a collection of galactic journeys which are part of an interactive sculpture 'Living Under the Stars' created by artist Keg De Souza. Imbedded in language, a selection of these stories are narrated by VACL staff Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir, Paul Paton and Mandy Nicholson.
Watch a video interpretation of 'Living Under the Stars'.
The 2015 film 'Wawi', Directed by Michael Portway is in Dja Dja Wurrung language with English subtitles. Language worker and previous VACL Board Member Harley Dunolly-Lee worked as a language consultant on the film and assisted with translations in collaboration with Emeritus Professor Barry Blake.
Watch a short extract of Wawi.
Nathan Maynard, a Trawlwoolway Aboriginal playwright and dancer from Tasmania, participated in the Shearwater Short Tales project at the Biyadin Shearwater Festival 2015. He incorporated language into his presentation and showed short films about mutton-birding on Big Dog Island, a practice in which his family had been engaged for many generations. Nathan also facilitated a theatre-making workshop at the Festival based on his play ‘The Season’ which he had presented at ‘Yellamundie’ the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Playwrighting Festival in Sydney. Nathan’s great-grandfather was Mannalaganna, chief of the Troowolway clan and of the whole of the North East Tasmanian indigenous peoples. Nathan was the recipient of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Artist of the Year Award in 2006 and 2013.
Corey Theatre source Corey Theatre Music
Living Connections Lisa Kennedy
Shearwater Festival Terry Melvin
Tanderrum Emma Hutchinson
Djirri Djirri Dance Group Rachel Ramberg
Dulaiwurrung Mungka-nj-bulanj Thornbury Primary School students
Bilgiri Gadini (Flood Waters) Brendan Kennedy
Living Under the Stars installation at Bunjilaka Emma Hutchinson
Wawi film still source Melbourne International Film Festival
Mutton Birding source Nathan Maynard
Traditionally, Aboriginal languages were not written down. They have always been communicated through the cultural practices of dance, song, storytelling, ceremony, artistic expression and cultural knowledge. VACL's Creative Language Revival Projects draw on this rich tradition of embedded creativity in communication, education and learning. Creative language revival activities are framed within a model of Community Cultural Development (CCD), ensuring that knowledge is passed on in engaging ways which lead to cultural revitalisation and community strengthening.
VACL has developed a model for its process of facilitating community engagement and collaboration in the creative language revival process. Drawing on the expertise of artists, Aboriginal Elders and linguists, VACL uses creative approaches to facilitate Aboriginal language revival. VACL staff work collaboratively with artists, providing linguistic and cultural support. They provide advice and resources to develop, record and disseminate language through creative processes which integrate songs, stories, music, poetic text, visual arts and sounds of Country to which the languages belong.
VACL’s model of Creative Language Revival draws on an extensive network of Aboriginal linguists and community leaders as an Advisory Group which is accountable to the VACL Board. The Board’s membership comprises Aboriginal Elders, linguists and community representatives from across the State. Members of the Advisory Group develop the project briefs for special events and programs and seek Expressions of Interest through community networks. Creative works are selected and commissioned from artists and members of different communities work together in collaboration.
Projects are allocated Lead Artists, Linguists and Cultural Mentors from the Advisory Group and on-going support is provided to the Project Teams. The creative works are performed at special events and the outcomes of the projects’ language reclamation processes are documented in writing, audio-recordings, photographs, visual art and film. Where appropriate, the project outcomes from the developmental process become learning resources which support language revival work and cultural learning in the broader community. An on-going cycle of feedback and evaluation is facilitated throughout the process.
VACL would like to welcome Mathew Gardiner to the VACL office as part of our team for the next two weeks. Mathew started his internship on the 29th March 2016 as part of his journey towards teaching Woiwurrung at Melton Primary School, commencing on the 13th April 2016.
Mathew Gardiner is a 25 year old Wurundjeri Man. He is the 6th generation of the Terrick line, his ancestor is Annie Borate. William Barak is Annie's brother.
Mathew said "firstly ngoon godgin (Thank You) to Paul Paton and staff for the warm welcome. As a young lad in my youth I have always had a querying mind for Woiwurrung Language but I was a bit apprehensive due to uncertainty. Now I feel as though I have been spiritually drawn or lead now that I am a man, to learn, revive, teach and mostly complete my murrup (soul) with Language. Since learning about the Woiwurrung Language I have felt more connected and grounded to my ancestors, lands, waterways and language more so then ever."
Mathew also said "I have a vision. To pass on my knowledge to the younger generation especially to the disadvantaged Wurundjeri youth who have veered off course from their roots and culture." Mathew hopes that by having language programs this will really help the younger generation to regain respect, self-respect and most importantly a purpose to willingly make something of themselves. He hopes they begin to feel confident and strong in their identity.
Staff and volunteers at VACL have been quietly working hard in the library over recent months, updating records and documenting resources in preparation for the library's launch into the virtual world.
The VACL Library is a unique and highly significant resource, featuring the most complete holdings of materials on Victorian Aboriginal languages in existence, and is the only place prioritising Community as well as historical and linguistic materials.
The VACL Library collection is now being shared online via Victorian Collections, making these important resources available to a wider audience and improving accessibility to our collection.
This project was lead and conceived by Jenny Gibson, who worked in partnership with Belinda Ensor and Cameron Auty, Co-Managers of Victorian Collections and volunteers Lea Bröenner, Eartha Collins and Amelia Marra, a Cultural Heritage student on placement from Deakin University. The collection will now go on to be linked with Trove.
VACL would like to thank and congratulate everyone who worked on this project which will further assist communities, groups, organisations and individuals to connect with Victorian Aboriginal language resources.
"Every item on Victoria Collections has a story to tell. Until now these objects have been hidden away in collections stores, libraries and exhibition spaces. This is an incredibly comprehensive and useful resource from a remarkable organisation, so it's very exciting for the collection to be shared online" said Belinda Ensor, Victorian Collections Co-Manager.
VACL's online collection can be found here
To learn more about VACL's library click here
Last week VACL hosted a language networking event Dhumba-djerring (talk together, from the Boonwurrung language) in Fitzroy. Language workers from across Victoria gathered over two days to participate in workshops and discussions and to share their experiences of awakening language in their communities and schools. It was positive to see young people and some new faces at this event as more and more people gain confidence and interest in our languages. Among the presentations were Brendan Kennedy's lesson on morphology, Aunty Doris Paton speaking about policies and strategies which have shaped the teaching of language in schools, Harley-Dunolly-Lee sharing his experiences of working with the Dja Dja Wurrung on sounds and spellings, Kris Eira on the issues and considerations when creating community dictionaries and Jenny Gibson who introduced the group to VACL's presence on Victorian Collections online. On the Thursday evening Paul Paton, Mandy Nicholson and Joel Wright took part in a panel discussion with Gregory Phillips to a packed audience at the Wheeler Centre.
Scroll down to see a video and images from Dhumba-djerring
For information on upcoming VACL presentations Reawakenings: the revival of Victorian Aboriginal languages click here
Students at Swan Hill Primary School are enjoying their third year learning Wemba Wemba language, taught by Wemba Wemba Elder Aunty Steph Charles and Koorie Educator Andrew Cameron.
Lessons to date have focused around the use of traditional language in a contemporary context through themes such as local birds, greetings, family members and body parts, taught through repetition, gesture, songs and memory games. Launched on Monday 15th February 2016, students have now created their own Wemba Wemba Language Program resource in the form of an interactive digital app, which contains word list categories accompanied by images and audio, in Wemba Wemba.
With the support of key Elders Aunty Steph Charles & Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir, Swan Hill Primary School Principal Janet Barnard, Koorie Educator Andrew Cameron, Community Linguist Vaso Elefsiniotis, Teacher Rachel Moloney and VACL Project Officer Emma Hutchinson, Grade 3 students learning Wemba Wemba undertook a series of workshops in which they created hundreds of drawings and photographs for the app, illustrating each language word.
The student’s creative use of language, art and technology has resulted in an interactive app with 13 word categories, including animals, body parts, counting, placenames, phrases, objects and songs.
This digital project is a partnership between Swan Hill Primary School, Traditional Owners, Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL), Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. (VAEAI) & Miromaa Aboriginal Language and Technology Centre. The development of these digital resources will support language reclamation and revitalisation activities in Victorian schools and communities.
The App is available now for FREE download at the App Store, for use on iPad and iPhone.
On Monday the 20th of April 2015, VACL launched three interactive digital storybooks at Thornbury Primary School, featuring Creation Stories of the Wurundjeri People in both Woi wurrung and English. As part of the project 15 Indigenous students from Thornbury Primary School were selected to create illustrations and record narratives for the digital storybooks. The student’s creative use of language, art and technology has enabled the telling of Balayang Wurrgarrabil-u (Why Bats are Black), Dulaiwurrung Mungka-nj-bulanj (How the Platypus Was Made) and Gurrborra Nguba-nj Ngabun Baanj (Why the Koala doesn’t Drink Water) to a global audience.
Click the icon above to download the apps.
The Apps are available now for download at the App Store, for use on iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch.
Woi wurrung Language Worker Mandy Nicholson is currently developing teacher resources which accompany these apps. Check back soon for updates, or contact the VACL office on 9600 3811 for more details.