Aboriginal people not recognised under the constitution

It is important for every one to know that even though Aboriginal people have some rights under the law, we are still not recognised by the Highest law in Australia; The Constitution, that we were the first people of this country. It was great that the stolen generation recieved a most welcomed apology. However, the time has come to put us in the constitution so that we too are counted within the Constitution. One thing in this article I believe needs further investigation is “overcoming disadvantage, ameliorating the effects of past discrimination, or protecting the cultures, languages or heritage” of the Indigenous people. This topic does not need to be one sided either if both Indigenous and respectful non-Indigneous people come together then the inclusion would be a representative of the country moving forward to total reconciliation rather than one group fighting for rights and the other oppossing it.

Essay on the Dhurga school language program

Anyone interesting in getting involved with the NSW K-10 Aboriginal Languages curriculum might find this story interesting. It’s an essay (which received Second Place in the 2010 Margaret Dooley Award) providing a perspective on the program from Jonathan Hill, a teacher involved in the Dhurga program in South Sydney.

The Politics of Dancing: issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander


I have copied below the abstract of an AIATSIS seminar given by Alisa Duff on 12th October.

And I have copied the audio link too.

The series can be accessed at http://www.aiatsis.gov.au/research/seminarseries/series2.html

“Dance is commonly portrayed as integral to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s lives and experiences. Marketing and promotion involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders across a range of mediums and platforms frequently includes imagery of costumed dancers at rest or during performance. Romantic assumptions of Indigenous Australians include the Elder in a remote community passing his dance down to another generation, families and communities performing song and dance cycles; and cultural festivals and gatherings where Indigenous Australians collect as they’ve done for thousands of years to enact and remember culture, lore and history. Implicit in these assumptions is the belief that dancing is a “natural” or inherited ability, unconsciously embedded in the dancers psyche, waiting for an occasion or event to be displayed. This seminar will interrogate some of these assumptions and question the value assigned to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural dance.

[Biographical information]

Alisa Duff was born on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, far north Queensland. She traces her descent from Moa Island in the Torres Strait, the Wuthathi and Yadhaigana peoples of North Queensland and the MacDuff clan of Scotland.
A graduate of NAISDA Dance College, she has worked as a professional classical and contemporary dancer in the United Kingdom, France and Germany. She is currently completing a Masters by Research through the Queensland University of Technology where she won the Indigenous Postgraduate Research Award.
In 2009, Alisa was chosen by the British Council Australia as one of three future Indigenous creative leaders in the Arts, and spent five weeks in the United Kingdom on a tailored program which included a secondment to the Cultural Olympics for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
As a current Indigenous Visiting Research Fellow at AIATSIS, Alisa’s research area focuses on Dance and Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Australian Story

Cath McKimm:
There was an extremely interesting Australian Story last night on Geoffrey Gurumal Yunupingu. It highlighted how much I have learnt from this course and made me wish that all of Geoffrey’s managers, pr people, etc could take this course too. I was surprised by the lack of understanding of the cultural concepts and values, linguistically and otherwise, which the people surrounding him displayed. I was particularly struck by their embarrassment when he used silence during an on-air interview and their seeming failure to understand his cultural connection to country including the lack of importance of ‘individual fame and celebrity’ so highly regarded within Western culture.

I know that the marking for the blog has been finished but I thought the program might be of interest to others (if anybody reads this) as it will be available on iview on the ABC website for a while.

First Australians show from SBS

Amelia:Hi everyone, I’m kind of guessing that a lot of you will have already seen First Australians that was on SBS a while ago, but I was out of the country when it was aired on TV and never saw it. I was thinking that I’d have to buy the DVD if I wanted to see it, but it’s actually still available online for free! Just thought I’d let you know in case anyone else missed it too. You can either watch it on the SBS website for the program, or subscribe to it as a vodcast through iTunes. I’m watching the second episode right now, about the Aboriginal people of Tasmania, and it’s really fascinating to hear the hugely different opinions that different academics and other guests have on Robinson, the guy who was running the mission. Some are massive fans, others think he was as low as low could get!

‘The Seven Stages of Grieving’

(I have just spoken to Nick today, who is going to try and upload the footage I have from the play. Because of copyright issues I can’t put it on youtube sorry, so Nick said he would try and put it somewhere else on the site.)

Hello everyone, I’m Wren (o:

The Seven Stages of Grieving is a play written by Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman, first performed in 1996 by the Kooemba Jdarra Theatre company (Kooemba Jdarra means ‘good ground‘ in the Turrabul language from South East Queensland). I think that it is a wonderful play. It shares the grief experienced by aboriginal people and talks about reconciliation. It is made up of lots of little stories about different people and different families, but they are all told by the one actress. They are all beautifully told. Some of them are incredibly funny whilst at the same time devastating sad. I think it illustrates particularly well the cultural differences when it comes to family structure. In one section of the play called Home Story, the woman begins to explain the complexities of Kin relations and uses small piles of dirt to demonstrate which groups are allowed to marry into which groups and so on. As you will see, it becomes clear that the complex structure of these relationships forms the foundations of aboriginal culture. When this structure is upset in any way, resolving the imbalance caused is no simple matter. I have video footage of this scene as it was performed at the STC, but unfortunately I am still working on a way of attaching it to the blog. Here is part of the script for you to read however;


The woman takes several handfuls of red earth from the grave making a large pile on the floor.

Now i want to tell you a story. I’ll tell you how it was told to me. now it’s very complex, i get it wrong sometimes, I’m no expert but I’ll try to explain it the best way i can, so you’ll have to stay with me. it’s all got to do with family culture and language and stuff. are you with me?

This pile here is the land, the source, the spirit, the core of everything. are you with me on that?

The woman makes a circle around the pile

And this one here is about culture, family, song, tradition, dance. have you got that?

Then came the children. Every one has their place. now this is where it gets complicated so you’ll have to stay with me.

The woman makes eight smaller  piles around the larger pile within the circle.

You always have to marry within your own skin.

If i was part of this pile here, that would mean this pile would be my mother…because you always follow the line of the woman. and this pile could be my father…or this one. Which makes this one and this one here my grandparents and cousins.

Now if I was to marry, I couldn’t marry from the same pile becasue they would be my brothers and sisters. But I could marry this pile here becasue they’re my cousins, which makes this pile my children, because you always follow the line of the woman. are you with me?

I’ll explain that again.

This mob and this mob can marry becasue they’re grandparents and cousins. You can’t marry this mob because they’re your brothers and sisters and you can’t marry this mob or this mob because they’re your children. Cause you always follow the line of the woman.

You can’t marry this one, this one or this one because that’s like marrying your father.

The only ones I could marry are…wait a minute. This mob and this mob can marry because they’re grandparents and cousins. You can’t marry this mob because they’re your brothers and sisters and you can’t marry this mob because they’re your children. Cause you always follow the line of the woman. You can’t marry this one, this one or this one because that’s like marrying your father. The only ones I could marry are this mob or this mob. Are you with me?

The woman gathers up the smaller piles and relocates them on the white fringing that defines the black performing area.

Now imagine when the children are taken away from this. Are you with me?

The woman flays her arm through the remaining large pile and circle, destroying it.


This is just one scene, hopefully I can get the footage to work and hopefully you will be inspired to read the whole thing. There are songs used in the play written in Kamilaroi and a number of different words also. Translations and a Glossary are provided at the end of the play.


On a separate note, I saw Cath McKimm’s posting on Babakiueria. I also watched this film in highschool while I was doing Aboriginal studies, and it came to mind during this unit. I agree Cath, it is a great series. I have actually found it online so here is part one. Thankyou Cath.

Art and Soul


Cath McKimm:

Halfway through this semester, this subject inspired me to go searching for a copy of an ABC satirical ‘pseudo-documentary’ titled ‘Babakiueria’ which originally went to air in 1986.    I finally tracked it down through the ABC shop online and can highly recommend it to anyone who can get a hold of a copy.  It shows a ‘reverse angle’ view of the discovery of Australia and its white inhabitants by Aboriginal people.  The film begins with a group of Aboriginal people arriving by boat on the Australian foreshores and attempting to communicate with a group of white people.   When the new arrivals manage to communicate an enquiry as to the name of this place, the white people respond with ‘Babakiueria’ (BBQ area).   The humour highlights the patronising approach taken by white people to Aboriginal Australians over the last two centuries (plus) and cleverly captures many of the issues surrounding racial inequality and racism.   I was particularly struck when reading the Eades’ article “Communicative strategies in Aboriginal English” of the way the film focuses on the problem of  ‘gratuitous concurrence’.    I had watched the film a couple of times since my recent purchase and the extraordinary importance of the effects of  ‘gratuitous concurrence’ completely escaped me until I read the Eades article.

Catch it if you can.  As a side-note the film was awarded the United Nations Media Peace Prize in 1987.

123 Song in Pitjantjatjara

123 Song in Pitjantjatjara

Sticking with the theme of songs in Indigenous languages, I found this clip for a kids’ song in Pitjantjatjara. Even though it’s a children’s song, I think it also provides a great model for adult language learning. Firstly, it starts out quite slowly and with subtitles so you know what’s being said. Visually, it’s also very easy to follow, with the digits ‘1,2,3’ being shown and then one, two, three children. As the song progresses and you become more familiar with the words, it gets faster and the subtitles disappear. What a fun and effective way to learn a language! What’s more, these have to be some of the cutest kids in the world!!!

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu – Bapa

Kirsten: Well perhaps not finally…I couldn’t resist adding this beautiful example of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu singing in Yolŋu. A language that would be an example of language maintenance?

The webpage below has the lyrics to his songs.


Gumbaynggirr Elders Choir

Kirsten: Finally here is a link to an article about the Gumbaynggirr Elders Choir which I was very honoured to be involved with getting started. The choir sings songs in Gumbaynggirr as well as some great old country hits and hymns that are popular in the Koori community.


Emma Donovan singing in Gumbaynggirr

Kirsten Mackenzie: This is a utube vidio of Emma Donovan singing in her language Gumbaynggirr. Using song is another successful tool for language reclamation or revival. Groups like Tiddas have also used their language successfully in songs like Inanay and No goon no pah which are in Lou Bennets language Yorta Yorta

Kriol – Waltjim bat Matilda

Nick suggested in the Week 9 podcast that we try to locate some spoken Kriol.
This song will be familiar to all us Aussies and it demonstrates well that Kriol is an English-lexified creole, NOT a variety of English.

Click to see the website where I found the song clip. (It has the words written out.)
Post script 6th October: Unfortunately, I have just noticed that Lara has already posted this, much earlier way back on 24th August. Oh well, for those like me who missed it…

Many Languages One Voice

In the first years of settlement in Australia there were more than 250 recorded Indigenous languages. In just 220 years that figure has dropped dramatically and only nine languages are considered safe with 20 to 30 languages at various levels of endangerment. This story looks at how communities are retrieving their dormant languages from historic books and journals and early film and audio recordings and maintaining those languages through promoting and teaching not only Aboriginal youth but all Australians. You will hear some Kaurna, Walpiri and Gumbaynggirr as well as a discussion on the axing of the bilingual progaram in the Northern Territory in 2009.


Adnyamathanha people’s Yura Ngawarla language revival


Wadu matyidi animation

Hi everyone,

This animation caught my attention since it was made by the members of an Indigenous Australian language rivival class. This class was started to pass down knowledge of the language and culture of the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders ranges in South Australia. In 2007, there were only 20 fluent speakers of Yura Ngawarla, which meant the language was heading for language death. The Ngawarla classes run after school during school term and encourages people from all backgrounds to enrol. Hence this not only strenghens the Adnyamathanha community but also the community at large and surely revives the culture and language, instigating a special interest in children. This brings youth and elders together.  

This animation reveals the potential which youth hold in connecting with their heritage and reviving a language when given the opportunity and offered the knowledge. Using digital animation, the class and the producers prove the marriage between new technology and old knowledge can indeed help revive a language and connect youth to their heritage. ‘Wadu Matyidi’ is entirely in Yura Ngawarla and tells the story of 3 Adnyamathanha children’s way of life before the British Invasion. As one of the young actors explain, ‘this has helped them to understand the  Adnyamathanha world, past and present.’

P.s: Click on this link for another snippet of the animation Wadu matyidi animation 🙂

Accreditation for interpreters of Aboriginal languages


Hi everyone, there was a little segment about interpreters of Aboriginal languages in Western Australia on SBS’s Living Black last week. It was concerned with the lack of interpreters in general, and the fact that there is no state-wide training system. It is believed that many people do not seek health care, or are treated unjustly in the legal system because they don’t speak English as a first language and don’t have access to an interpreter. I found it incredible to hear that so few people are trained and accredited as interpreters, considering that language can be such a huge barrier in successfully navigating essential services. It’s particularly surprising considering the government itself seems to insist in most other cases that translators and interpreters are NAATI (National Accreditation Authority of Translators and Interpreters) accredited.

One thing I found really interesting about this clip was the comment from the Equal Opportunity Commission that a major issue is invasion of privacy when children have to interpret for their parents in the absence of professional interpreters. It just made me wonder whether they based this view on feedback from the Aboriginal people involved, or adapted it from general research related to interpretation practice. Privacy seems to be such a culture-specific concept.


There’s a little ad that plays first, then the segment will start playing. It’s only about 5 minutes long in total.

Bran Nue Dae


“The film Bran Nue Dae was the big winner at… [this year’s] Deadly Awards, which celebrate Indigenous achievements in entertainment, music, sport and the community.

“The Deadlys deliver a strong and healthy message to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community – that, hopefully, is an inspiration to young Indigenous Australians, indeed Indigenous Australians across the country.” (SBS reporting on 28th September 2010 here)

Bran Nue Dae promotional film clip

This newly-released production is highly entertaining and it presents a fascinating glimpse of life for Australian Indigenous people. With the ‘big name’ actor Geoffrey Rush, the issues it raises will be taken to the wider world and it is to be hoped that the film will have a positve impact, challenging and changing people’s perceptions.

Reviving Wampanoag (an Algonquian language of north America)

David Penn (via Nick): 30.09.10

If you are interested in comparing the language revival work in Australia that we examined in Topic 6 with some overseas examples, you might find this site interesting. Jessie Little Doe Baird is a linguist and the co-founder and director of the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project in Mashpee, Massachusetts. She’s engaged in reviving Wampanoag (or Wôpanâak), the Algonquian language of her ancestors, once spoken by tens of thousands of people but not spoken since the middle of the 19thC.


First ever indigenous anatomy dictionary bridging gaps.


Hello all, April here 🙂

I found this looking online for a radio program a friend told me about (I believe has Susan W posted it on here), and it made me think of topic 4 on dictionaries and vocabularies, I actually remembered the missionaries like Threlkeld in the textbook making word lists with a pronunciation key so as to preach more effectively (after all, how effective can any communication be if you don’t share language or the concepts that are the focus of the discourse?) to their non-English speaking indigenous counterparts, though there is no agenda in this recent creation other than improving communication in indigenous health care. As opposed to a word list, McLellan has compiled an anatomy dictionary in Djambarrpuyŋu, very commonly used in the Yolŋu area in the NT. What’s particularly interesting is that, as a dictionary of anatomy, the register in English would be lousy with jargon and technical terms, so words must have been found and/or adapted to describe phenomena that mightn’t have previously been included by the language. And better still, when making the dictionary, there was actually communication between native speakers in the area and the people working on it, so that the definitions given can be understood on a local, cultural level, as it reflects the thinking of the people it’s written for – for example, when asked what DNA was, the response was “like laws in the body” – and this was used in the definition. It also relates some previously unheard of (or simply unseen) things to existing ones by using related word classes and real life situations, which I think English dictionaries could learn from. In the transcript problems interpreters face in health care is brought up, and it reminded a lot of the problems faced by aboriginal language speakers in legal situations because of a similar communication barrier.

So, here’s a link to the transcript –

Strong music

Jo Hunt:

I have had a few looks on YouTube recently to try and find some interesting snippet of Aboriginal English or Kriol to post to this blog. On page 70 of LING366/466 pdf reading 8 (Susan Kaldor and Ian Malcolm’s ‘Aboriginal English – an overview’, chapter 3 of ‘Language in Australia’), I read that Aboriginal English was sometimes referred to by its speakers as “blackfella talk”. So I decided to do a search on YouTube for this term. This lead me to discover the following song – “Blackfellas” – which I really enjoyed, so want to share with you all.

I suppose this is an example of an urban variety of Aboriginal English – which also happens to be coloured by the hip hop genre. I wish I could find the lyrics as I can’t quite hear what they are at some points, which makes it hard to say what features of Aboriginal English are present. I am pretty sure I heard a “don’t never” and several instances of ‘ing’ forms pronounced as “in”, however, I suspect these may be part of many non-standard Englishes, including hip hop talk.

The main thing about this song though, is that it seems to me to be a really genuine and empowering voice from indigenous Australia. It mentions “respect” a couple of times, which is an important concept in Aboriginal culture, as we have seen in recent parts of this unit. And at one point as far as I can hear it contains the words “I’m passin’ out a message that’s crystal clear, to all the young proud [or ‘crowd’?] mob, don’t show no fear”. I guess this is a call for young Aboriginal people to be proud, confidant, and not intimidated, but as part of this, it could also be seen as a specific piece of advice on strategies in cross-cultural exchanges with Anglo Australia.

I also like the use of all the various Aboriginal group names, as it reiterates a point made early on in this unit, that there is no one Aboriginal language or identity, whilst also addressing all (or many?) Aboriginal people very inclusively. Likewise the bit of “language” (I am assuming traditional Aboriginal) in the middle of the song is interesting, but I have no idea where it is from!

More info on the band (Local Knowledge) available here.

Holding Our Tongues – Language Revival

Michele: Holding Our Tongues
Holding our tongues

Hindsight 8 March 2009 – Holding our tongues

“We often think that the ‘tides of history’ have washed away most of the languages in south eastern Australia. But Aboriginal people say those languages are not dead, just sleeping. We hear the stories of three different Aboriginal nations whose languages were declared extinct last century. Incredibly, all those languages are gently being brought back to life… and in a great twist, they’ve been revived using the colonial historical record.

The same colonists who believed they were recording the language of a dying race, or seeking to translate the Bible and thus save souls, are now the main informants for Aboriginal cultural renewal. But language revival requires patience, and the courage to face significant dilemmas. If words are missing, do you make up substitutes? How do you modernise a language that was last spoken in the 1800s? And is this language engineering right or wrong?”


The transcript can be found at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/hindsight/features/holdingourtongues/transcript.htm

This program “Holding Our Tongues” has now been aired three times in Hindsight on the ABC (8th March 2009, 4th July 2009 and 2nd January 2010). Essentially this project is concerned with “language maintenance and revival [which] is at the heart of Aboriginal cultural identity”. And there is much to interest us as students of Australian Indigenous languages as it details how and why language programs are being developed to revitalise, renew and reclaim languages.

What I found particularly thought-provoking was the tension that can exist between linguists and the Aboriginal community. Furthermore, although it does not actually address the question posed in the first study question of Topic 8 about non-direct data collection, it provides much food for thought about intellectual property and the role of the expert linguist. Of especial significance is the challenge to align academic interests in analysing language with the rights of the Aboriginal people to use their language for everyday communication, and not to have their language frozen in time in “pure form” as it was before the white invasion. It would seem that the agenda of a linguist should be not historical linguistics as such, but what Amery terms the “Formulaic Method”. Please see the article “Phoenix or relic? Documentation of Languages with Revitalization in Mind” that Susan has directed us to in her recent blog on 13th September.

Postscript: A wealth of other topics of interest can be found at http://www.abc.net.au/indigenous/

Tasmanian Aboriginal People, History and Art Online

I came across this great site for Tasmanian Aboriginal art, history and culture information, and thought that some people would be interested in looking at it.

There is information about Aboriginal life, before the whites invasion, the conflicts between the Aborigines and the British colonists during 1803 and 1823, the removal of the Aboriginesand the creation of the new settlement Wybalenna, on Flinders Island, and how the Aboriginal people live today in Tasmania.



An important guide and interpreter for Robinson was an Aboriginal woman called Truganini. In 1829 Truganini became the partner of Woorraddy and with him accompanied Robinson on his missions to the Aboriginal tribes between 1830-1834.

She worked with Woorraddy to help Robinson move Aboriginal people from the mainland to settle on Flinders Island.

She arrived at the Aboriginal settlement on Flinders Island (Wybalenna) in 1835 disillusioned with Robinson and his mission, realising that the resettlement program would further erode the chances of the remaining Aboriginal population leading their preferred way of life.

In 1839 Truganini went to Port Phillip (now known as Melbourne, Victoria) but returned to Wybalenna in 1842. Woorraddy died on the way, a further blow to Truganini. She then moved with her people to Oyster Cove on the mainland.

Truganini in 1866
Truganini in 1866
(photograph by Charles Wooley)

The Oyster Cove settlement was not successful and most of the people died. At the end of her life Truganini lived in Hobart and was very well known. She died in 1876.


Tasmanian Aboriginal Languages and Phonology: According to Milligan

Attached are three page excerpts from Vocabulary of the dialects of some of the aboriginal tribes of Tasmania by Joseph Milligan.

From Linguistics
From Linguistics
From Linguistics

An example from Milligan’s Vocabulary showing the affinity of construction of the different Tasmanian Aboriginal dialects spoken.

English Oyster Bay and Pittwater Tribes Mount Royal, Bruni Island, Recherche Bay and Southern Tasmania Tribes
Eye Mongetena Nubre or Nubrenah
Eyelash Mongtalinna Nubre tongany
Eyelid Moygta genna Nubre wurrine
To see Mongtone Nubreatone
Dizzy/Faint mongtantiack Nubretanyte

According to Milligan’s data, I have noticed the following in relation to the phonology of the Tasmanian languages.


(According to Milligan the vowels are sounded full and round.)

  • a – as in cat
  • é – as in potato
  • e – as in the
  • e – as in thee, see
  • i (before a vowel) – as in shine
  • i – as in sigh
  • – as in go
  • oo – as in moon
  • u – as in use (never like flute)
  • u – as in lump


  • y – as in yellow


  • aa (aw)– as in lawn
  • oi – as in soil
  • ou – as in noun


b, c [? k], g, h are used only at the ends of the words

k, l, m, n, p, q [? k], r, t [w], ch and gh (as in the German ‘hochachten’)

There seems to be no d, f, v, s, or z.

However, d is used in the spelling of some words, as the Aboriginals occasionally use a soft equivalent for t. Milligan places din the words mannaladdy – cough, tendyagh – red, dgulla­ – acid, rhomdunna – star, and lowide – scab.

As there are no buzz or hissing sounds it is more than likely th is not a sound used in their language. This is shown by Milligan’s spelling of the words re-mutta – hand, and poyenna pottatyack – vanish, where t takes the place of th.

However, some spellings include th such as: re-mutha – fist, elapthatea – beauty, riaputhaggana – tame, and pothyack – no.

Words largely start with a conjoined consonant, the common ones are: br, gr, kr, and nt and the less common ones are cht, ghr, ght, gl, kn, lb, mp, ngh, ngl, ngt, nk, nr, pr, rk, rn, rt and tr.

Although some words end with ack, ak, iack, yak and similar groups. Words largely end with a soft, aspirated vowel such as: a, e and ah.

Reference: Milligan, Joseph, 1866, Vocabulary of the dialects of some of the aboriginal tribes of Tasmania, Royal Society of Tasmania.

Film on the process of language death.

Oh, what a wonderous meandering maze is the internet.
From our course notes, through the Foundation for Endangered Languages, their newsletter (Ogmios), to a site specialising in independent short film, comes Immersion; a film portraying living with the erosion of one’s native tongue in a community where another language dominates. http://www.indiegogo.com/Immersion?i=pite

Early Australian Diaries

The previous SMH article mentioned the writings of Watkin Tench, an officer of the first fleet, on the journey to and establishment of the Australian colony. Chapter XI in particular refers to the local indigenous population and early white/black relations. Tim Flannery wrote a book based on this document called 1788. http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/ozlit/pdf/p00039.pdf

Not all that is progressive is beneficial

This article appeared in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Posts from students in LING466 suggests we are a quite progressive, politically aware group. Often it seems that people are politically active on more than one issue. The article suggests that what is important to environmentalists and proponents of indigenous rights may not always align.

English first for indigenous children

Michele: This may be a hot topic in the news in the coming days, and it will feed into our studies in the second part of this semester.

English first for indigenous kids – Mark Arbib
• From: AAP
• September 19, 2010 4:37PM
INDIGENOUS Australians must be taught English ahead of their traditional languages if they are to get jobs, Indigenous Employment Minister Mark Arbib says.
Senator Arbib said while he wanted to see traditional languages kept alive, the focus had to be kept on English.

“It is going to be impossible for us to solve indigenous employment unless English is taught as the first language,” he told Sky News today.

“When you talk to employers, the number one concern they have about employing indigenous people is lack of reading and writing skills.”

Senator Arbib said he would work with School Education Minister Peter Garrett and all state governments to ensure that literacy skills were being taught to indigenous children.

“Because they need it,” he said.


Gumbaynggirr language classes – ABC Mid North Coast NSW

Spatial relations

Susan Willsteed: Further to our discussion on the ways some Indigenous languages express understandings of spatial relations, this week’s Lingua Franca on Radio National has an interview with linguist Dr Alice Gaby, regarding her observations about how people living in the remote Australian Aboriginal community of Pormpuraaw talk about time and place.


Elder’s portrait for Melbourne building

Michele: Believe it or not


High-rise to bear elder’s face
12:00 AEST Wed Sep 15 2010
By ninemsn staff

A apartment building bearing the image of a 19th century Aboriginal leader and artist is set to become a major landmark.

The 32-storey apartment block on the site of the former Carlton brewery will display the face of William Barak, an elder dedicated to greater understanding between black and white Australia.

Barak, a teenager when European settlers founded Melbourne in 1835, became a police trooper and respected painter.

Construction is yet to begin on the building, named ‘Portrait’.


Language Documentation and Conservation journal

Susan Willsteed: The Language Documentation and Conservation journal is a fully refereed, open-access journal sponsored by the National Foreign Language Resource Center published exclusively in electronic form by the University of Hawai‘i Press.

Free subscription to the journal can be accessed on the website…. http://nflrc.hawaii.edu/ldc/

A lot of interesting articles/papers available here, including a recording of a paper by Rob Amery: “Phoenix or relic? Documentation of languages with revitalisation in mind” delivered at the 1st International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

Yolngu-English anatomical dictionary

Annie: I just came across this article on the ABC website. Dr Marilyn McLellan has worked with communities to write an anatomical dictionary in Yolungu. I imagine it would’ve been a very challenging project to work on,needing in some cases to find the best equivalent constructions for some terms, but I believe it is a very necessary project aswell. I hope more dictionaries of this nature are made in the future, as it surely is a step towards health equality.

Our Languages, national languages website.

Annie: The ‘Our Languages’ website can be found here. I haven’t had a really good poke around it yet, but it seems to have some excellent information, including links and other resources. It covers place names, education programmes, maps, language centres and more. It is funded by the federal government department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. The news page looks very up to date, so its the kind of site I’d check regularly for items of interest.

QPIX Black Pearls – Indigenous Film Course

Michele: In Brisbane last weekend there was a screening of some short first films that were made by graduates of this year’s Certificate IV training course run by QPIX Black Pearls.

Solely for Indigenous people, Black Pearls is an important initiative in giving a voice to Indigenous people through the medium of film-making. However, there is still a way to go as the final cut (in one case, from 20 minutes down to 12) is often made without the film-maker’s involvement.

In May over three weeks NITV screened a series of these short films from this year and previous years.

“After Dark” A hospital matron intervenes when she discovers who the father is of a recently born baby. Her cruel actions cause tragic consequences.

“Jhindu” Jhindu is warned by his Grandfather about the evil spirit called Dujay. Unfortunately the young man does not have a strong enough heart to resist the sinister influence and so succumbs to the spirit’s curse.

“Transit” A man tries to apologise to his former partner for his past violent behavior. He has only 40 minutes to convince her to change her mind about him before having to catch a connecting bus in order to comply with his parole order.

These three short films screened on NITV were also part of last weekend’s Brisbane screening for the 2010 Black Pearl graduates.

Black Pearl from NITV video (Clip 181, but Clip 179 is also of related interest.)

Going Back to Lajamanu – Bilingual Education in the N.T.

This website contains resources and clips from a Four Corners’ report last year called, “Going Back to Lajamanu”.  It was a report about the Northern Territory Government’s decision to dismantle the bilingual language programs in government schools.  This relates directly to week six’ topic which deals with language maintenance.  What is particularly disturbing are the feelings that Aboriginal teachers have about these policies – how they feel disvalued as teachers and as a community, with little or no consultation over language policy.  A particularly powerful interview is recorded with Connie Nungarrayi a former teaching assistant (AEW) in Yuendumu community.  There is also an interesting interview with the Chairman of Yirrkala School where Yolngu is taught in a bilingual program.




This interview between the author of the book , “The Politics of Suffering”, Peter Sutton, and Marcia Langton does not really deal with linguistic issues – but it is interesting to listen to as it gives you an idea of the situations in which children in remote communities are living and trying to maintain their language and culture.  In the second part of the interview during the question and answer session Sutton makes a comment about language lost – in that it is a choice that people make.  People chose to move away from communities, move into English speaking areas and bring their children up in English rich environments.  He sees the future of Aboriginal languages as being similar to the fate of Ancient Greek and Latin.  He sees language as being rich in culture but that this culture is in the past – belongs to the past and cannot be owned by the current generations, but rather studied and understood.

Continue reading

Chaser Yes we Canberra – Life at the top

Nick Reid: I can’t help thinking that this clip relates to the myth in Topic 6 that Paul Black refers to of Aboriginal people being ‘an ancient people clinging to a way of life 40,000 years old’. I find I both love this skit and hate it. Part of the humour here arises from the fact that these people are employing irony and sarcasm of the kind that’s typical for the show. But irony and sarcasm are not very typical ways of Aboriginal people interacting verbally, so I wonder if this is in fact heavily scripted and ‘performed’, or whether there is more irony and sarcasm in the subtitles that there is in the conversation. I also wonder how much of the audience laughter is also myth-related, ie anglo-Australians still surprised that Aboriginal people actually have conversations about current affairs? I think the producers are actually trying to subvert the myth here – it’s the audience I wonder about. I’d be interested in your reactions??

Indigenous Language Teaching Resources

Claire Loades http://www.apps.sa.edu.au/aln.htm
the link above will take you to the Aboriginal Languages Network. This is a network for teachers of Aboriginal Languages and is developed and based in Port Augusta. In Port Augusta a number of languages are taught including: Adnyamathanha. Arabana and Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara. You will find printable resources, interactive powerpoint presentations and resources that are availbale. The resources have been developed and published by DECS and are part of the reclamation project funded within DECS.

Waltzing Matilda in Kriol

I was curious about Kriol so I looked for items related to this and I came across Ali Mills. She is an Aboriginal musician from the Top End and she has released a Kriol version of Waltzing Matilda. The song has received positive reviews and rightfully so in my opinion. She also sings in Gurindji/Kungarakan and she has also attended many peaceful demonstrations for Aboriginal Rights.

You can view the music clip here

There is also a short article from an interview with Ali in the NTnews from April this year.  You can read HERE

I really enjoyed listening to this song  and it was interesting to see the lyrics and compare Kriol to English. Other students have discussed song and I found that it was easier listening to Kriol than looking at the written form for me. You can see the lyrics HERE

It is also interesting because in chapter 11 (Walsh & Yallop) Mari Rhydwen mentions that many people in the Daly River area don’t think they speak Kriol but Ali Mills is always proud of the Kriol language and she discusses this in many of her interviews. I hope everyone else enjoys this version of Waltzing Matilda as much as I did.


Yura Ngawarla, the language of the Adnyamathanha people.

Annie: I came across this today, the website for a Yura Ngawarla language program, by the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders Rangers, SA. The language currently has only 20 fluent speakers so is highly endangered, but it looks like the community is working hard developing language resources and teaching the language, especially to children and young people. I really hope they get continued funding and the program is a success.

Example of spoken Djinang

Caitlin: In building upon the use of loan words that we have seen (such as in 5-4.1 Loan Words Dixon [pp 121]), I found this clip interesting as I was able to hear English loan words as they are being used in the Djinang language.

Additionally, the comments on this video are extremely interesting. Usually YouTube comments are best to be avoided (!), but there are some comments here that provoke thought, and clearly there are a lot of strong opinions as to the use of Djinang language. There seems to be a theme where people express that they would appreciate subtitles, which I think is a positive reflection on people genuinely being interested in Australian languages.

I would be curious to see how other 466 students take both this video and the comments. To see the comments you’ll need to go to the actual YouTube link.

Something light for the weekend

Caitlin: The further we delve into Australian languages, the more I find myself questioning my own knowledge of English. I don’t mean the syntactical side of things, but further back in the past to the actual development of the language. I’ve read two books recently that I highly highly recommend (and can lend to anyone on the Gold Coast!).

The first is Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue. I have read this book so many times that it’s all tatty and dog-eared, and have bought copies for countless friends (that’s right, I’m the book-buying friend). Mother Tongue traces the English language from its roots, and I have found it especially relevant considering our investigation into the families of Australian languages. There is also an (unusual?) support for variants of English, including Australian-English. For anyone interested in a light* read, I highly recommend Mother Tongue.

The second book that I’ve read lately is David Sachs’ Letter Perfect: The Marvelous History of our Alphabet from A-Z. The title essentially sums up the essence of this book, but there are a lot of aspects that I have found myself applying to the Aboriginal languages that we are studying.

I know for all you Australian students that it’s starting to get a bit warmer, so these might make for some interesting sunbathing material- just be prepared to explain your choices to nosy onlookers!

Language Death – The Linguists movie

Cath McKimm:
The movie, The Linguists, was recommended to us last year in one of the MAAL subjects that I was studying at the time. Although it lacks some depth, it is very interesting all the same. It follows two linguists, David Harrison and Gregory Anderson, as they travel to remote (and not so remote) corners of the world investigating and recording endangered languages. You can watch it for free from this link http://www.watchthisfree.com/movies/2008/the-linguists/ It is well worth while. I enjoyed it immensely – I’d love to have their job!

Indigenous Language stories from Lingua Franca (Radio National)

Annie: Here is a link to the Lingua Franca website by Radio National. I haven’t listened to all of these stories but I did enjoy listening to one about Aboriginal language reclamation and reconstruction. You can search the site’s past programmes by date or subject, and download the audio and text transcripts.There seems to be a fair bit of Indigenous content from Australia and other Indigenous communities around the world.

Transient Languages and Cultures Blog

Amelia: I’ve just come across the Transient Languages and Cultures blog which is is dedicated to endangered languages and cultures. Contributors are people from the Linguistics Department of the University of Sydney, and people who work for PARADISEC,  which is a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.There’s a lot of interesting stuff there about Indigenous Australian languages and cultures – http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/elac/


Cath McKimm:

After reading Kerry Harding’s blog and watching the link to the Message Stick episode, I recalled a fantastic book that I read years ago by Bruce Chatwin who was an English novelist and travel writer. The book is called The Songlines (1987) and presents an interesting view of how Aboriginal people think and relate to their land.  His thesis that language started as song is quite intriquing. I know most of the links so far in this blog are to electronic resources but I figure we shouldn’t get bogged down with technology.

Lost in translation

Kerry Harding:

Go to http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB10001424052748703467304575383131592767868.html 

for this article from The Wall Street Journal summarising new cognitive research from Professor Lera Boroditsky from the Department of Psychology at Stanford University.  The research suggests that the people see the world in profoundly different ways, shaped by the languages they speak.  This is a question raised by Michael Walsh in ‘Classifying the World in an Aboriginal Language’ (in Language and Culture in Aboriginal Australia, Chapter 8), a reading for Topic 4.  Walsh asks (at p. 119), ‘Does the language you grow up using influence the way you perceive the world because of its inbuilt perceptual and conceptual grid?  Or is it that the culture (and even the environment) shapes the perceptual and conceptual grid which has developed in the language?’  Boroditsky suggests that there is evidence for the former proposition.  One example given in the article is of the Aboriginal community of Pormpuraaw  (West coast, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland.  Many Pormpuraaw children speak a local Aboriginal language as their first language. The Thaayorre people mainly speak Kuuk Thaayorre and related dialects. The Mungkan people speak a variety of Kugu or Wik languages:  see http://www.atsip.qld.gov.au/people/communities/pormpuraaw/).  Boroditsky found that the Australian languages in this region use absolute cardinal directions instead of ‘left’ and ‘right’, and discusses how this changes the way a speaker looks at the world.  See also Boroditsky, L. & Gaby, A. (2010). Absolute spatial representations of time in an Aboriginal Australian community. Psychological Science. (forthcoming) at http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~lera/papers/.

Aboriginal Language links in ‘Aussie Educator’

Anne Herrington 25-07-2010

The ‘Aussie Educator’ web-site found at http://www.aussieeducator.org.au was initially established by education personnel from a need for those involved in education to find and share relevant information across states to address teaching needs. Data is continually checked and updated. The ‘Indigenous Education’ site provides access to extensive information and media about Indigenous languages and culture relevant to LING 466. As well as containing very interesting material, links may also provide students with information suitable for discussion topics and essays.

The ‘Indigenous’ site is accessed from the left-hand side listing, under the tabs for ‘Education’ then ‘Specific Education Areas’. On the First Page, files are organised under each state and territory. The Second Page provides access, under the ‘Research’ heading, to research papers and reports, such as ‘The Case for Change’ at http://www.acer.edu.au/documents/AER_47-TheCaseforChange.pdf (see ‘Culture and pedagogy’ p. 33 and ‘Language Development’ p. 38). Particularly relevant to LING 466 on this page is a variety of interesting language material files under the ‘Language’ heading. Topics include ‘Aboriginal English’, a paper by Diana Eades, also accessed at http://www.une.edu.au/langnet/definitions/aboriginal.html, and many other links to information about various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and literacy. For example, there is a Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay dictionary, the Guwaabal site lists 12 stories in Yuwaalaraay or Gamilaraay (see Study Notes Topics 1.3 & 2) which you can read and listen to, and information about the Bundjalung language (see Ch.5 Walsh & Yallop) is found in the Muurrbay link. At the top of both the First and Second Pages is another link from ‘Indigenous Language’ to other relevant websites, including language maps.

A portal, no longer part of the Aussie Educator website, with detailed information about Indigenous people, tribes, and their languages and cultures can be found at http://www.ldb.org/oz-indi.htm. Under the ‘Culture’ tab, the ‘Australian Indigenous Language’ link provides information about language names and maps, dictionaries, grammar, maintenance and revival, Aboriginal English and many other individual languages. While in the ‘Culture’ section, for your enjoyment, read/listen to and watch Dreamtime stories in ‘Stories of the Dreaming’, and under the ‘Arts’ tab and ‘Songlines’ heading, see some beautiful indigenous paintings. Listen to segments of Yothu Yindi’s captivating traditional (and contemporary) songs as well, while you’re in the ‘Arts’ section.

Interactive Indigenous Language Map – ABC

This site http://www.abc.net.au/indigenous/map/ has a map of Australian Languages – similar to the map posted by Louka on the 20th of July. One nice difference however, is that it is interactive. The map shows the language groups on a Google map and also has links 18 recordings of stories in various Australian Languages along with English translation. All stories are told by native speakers. There are also links to news stories on this map. It is quite a good resource if you would like to hear the differences and similarities between different Australian Languages.

Screen Shot of Website
Screen Shot of Website

Message Stick Episode – ‘The Language Man’

Kerry Harding:

Go to
http://www.abc.net.au/tv/messagestick/xml/vodcast_mp4.xml and scroll down to Episode 21, 2008.

This is an episode of the ABC’s ‘Message Stick’ program about John Bradley, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Monash University, and his work with the Yanyuwa people of Borroloola in the South West Gulf of Carpentaria, NT,  how he came to know the community and learn the language.  You can find out more about this work at http://www.deakin.edu.au/arts-ed/diwurruwurru/yanyuwa/ and http://arts.monash.edu.au/cais/staff/jbradley.php.  Phonetic details about the language can be found at Yanuyuwa.

The program introduces this complex language, which has both male and female dialects; and the connections between language, culture and spirituality (as discussed in the Reid and Goddard reading, Topic 1).

Childrens books and Languages

Annie: I was reading When I Was Little Like You to my eldest daughter last night and thought I should share it here. It is a childrens story by Mary Malbunka (1959-2004, born in Haasts Bluff) about her life growing up in Papunya and the surrounding country. The book is written in English with features of Ab E and includes some Luritja vocabulary, with language notes and a pronunciation guide. Mary’s first languages were Luritja and Pintupi, and her mother spoke some Walpiri. Mary explains how diverse the mission camp at Papunya was, culturally and linguistically. She talks about the English only policy at the school and how this affected her European education. Mary talks mostly about going bush and her very important cultural and linguistic education there with her family and elders. She touches on attitudes of white people towards the aboriginal community and how that affected her. This book has amazing illustrations, and is treasure trove of info aimed at 9-13 year olds but I think most people will enjoy it. I have found it really useful when talking with my children about Indigenous issues. It is a great tool for parents and other educators.

Another childrens book that we really love is Nyuntu Ninti (What you should know) by Bob Randall and Melanie Hogan. This book doesn’t touch specifically on language issues but it explains (beautifully) Aboriginal connections to the land. Using a few Pitjantjatjara words to explain the principle of Kanyini it concisely but simply stresses how extremely important this connection is.

If anyone knows of other great childrens stories can you please share the details with us, I am always on the hunt for more!

Language and the Arts

Amelia Ozaki: For the past 8 years or so, a community arts company called big hART has been working on a project in Alice Springs, writing and producing theatre in the Pitjantjatjara Language. They have been performing their work around the country to people who have taken their online Pitjantjatjara Language courses. You can find out more at http://www.ngapartji.org/ (project homepage) and at http://ninti.ngapartji.org/ (online language learning course). I’ve never had the opportunity to get along and see anything, but what an exciting project!

IndigiTUBE – the voice of remote Indigenous Australia!

Claire Loades:

IndigiTUBE has a range of video clips of music, traditional stories and dance as well as language lessons from remote communities in Australia. The language groups include Ngaanjatjara, Pitjantjatjara, Gija and Karrajarri. There are clips from the Ngapartji Ngapartji website which are Pitjantjatjara Language lessons. Have a look if you want to learn some language, sing a song, or see if you recognise people. There are a lot of clips from PY Media and the APY Lands. The length of the videos varies from 5 to 60 minutes. There is a search engine to help you find what you are looking for.  As the site says “it has been set up to help share our music, our stories and our lives – with each other , and with the world!”



TV helps Aboriginal language Noongar revival

Lizzie Damiano (21.7.2010) http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/tv-helps-aboriginal-language-revival.htm
I came across this very interesting report in which modern technology is aiming to help an ancient language once again be part of our lands. The Noongar language of south-west Western Australia is being televized in an tv series aimed at 3-6 year olds, and in each episode 10-15 new Noongar words are introduced for the children to learn, with a story-time segment on the show as well as traditional Noongar songs. I thought this was particularly relevant to our reading of Chapter 1 by Michael Walsh in which he talks about the extinction of 160 of the 250 Indigenous languages that were spoken at the time of the first European settlement in Australia. This is a wonderful step in the right direction for helping to revive the languages of our land.

Spot the difference!


I had just finished reading the article by Michael Christie, “The Language of Oppression: The Bolden Case, Victoria, 1845” on Monday evening when I heard Four Corners start up in the background. Coincidentally it was about a case of 5 young drunk white guys who bashed a young aboriginal man to death in Alice Springs last year.

The program was entitled, “A Dog Act” which was an interesting reference as it was actually used by one of the white offenders to describe what they had done. Despite that it echoed some of the language referred to in the Christie article.

Indeed, I was surprised by some of the echoes I heard watching this program.

For those of you who did not see the program it is still available on iview on the ABC website. In brief, 5 young white men who had been drinking all night at the Alice’s many “watering holes” went out for a bit of sport in the early hours of the morning. They drove the twin cab ute they were travelling in down the dry Todd River bed where (as was well known amongst locals) aboriginal people often camped. They drove through a group of aboriginal people in their car a couple of times, scattering them – some of the aboriginal people were quite old. The victim saw them there and later had a confrontation with the same car on a road not far from the river bed. The victim allegedly threw a bottle at the car as it drove by. The driver turned the car around and drove back to the victim – at least two of the men got out of the car, chased the victim down the road and then beat him, ultimately, to death.

So what’s changed since the Bolden Case?

One of the aboriginal people charged by the youths in their car heard one of the young men call out, “You smell like the Todd River.”

The mother of the victim said, “They chased my son down as if he was an animal.”

One of the locals said, “They were just five young guys sick of taking crap from aboriginals.”

The mother of one of the offenders said, “That’s just the, the way that they just hang round the town and just make it so, oh what is it? What’s the word for it? Just, just not comfortable, because they’re there all the time. You walk past them, you don’t know how, what, how they’re gonna react.”

The father of one of the offenders brushed the incident off with: “…I guess about a few young fellas going for a drive down the river, I thought well, you know, that’s quite a, a um, a regular occurrence for young people in, in this vicinity. Um, saw nothing extraordinary about that at all. And just five fellas going for a drive up the drive up the river.”

And this extraordinary sequence:

Reporter Liz Jackson: “Over the months that followed none of the five young men, all held in custody, applied for bail. Some of their parents were worried about payback from the Ryder family.”

Heather Swain, mother of one of the offenders: “I was glad that he was locked away. It sounds horrible, but I knew he’d be safe, safer there. But yeah, Amanda was, I didn’t want her to go out clubbing or anything like that because I didn’t know if the family would do payback, as they do. Um but…”

Reporter Liz Jackson: “But were there any threats?”

Heather Swain: “No.”

I was struck by the mirroring of the same notions and attitudes which Christie refers to in his article. Over 160 years later, not a lot seems to have changed.

However, one critical thing has changed, reflected in the comments of the sentencing judge:

CHIEF JUSTICE: “I am satisfied that there were racial elements in the earlier events and that a tone and atmosphere was set of antagonism toward and harassment of Aboriginal persons and is likely to have influenced the later conduct of all offenders. …. and the actions of some offenders in kicking and striking the deceased while he was on the ground were influenced, at least to some degree, by the fact that the deceased was an Aboriginal person. Each of you is convicted of the crime of manslaughter.”

For those interested in watching the program it is available online at http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/default.htm

Lessons in Gamilaraay language

Kerry Harding: Go to https://moodle.arm.catholic.edu.au/course/view.php?id=10 for lessons, songs and other resources in Gamilaraay language.  This language of northern NSW has been in decline since colonisation, but is being rebuilt and relearnt by its people.  The Pronouns page describes the 18 first person pronouns, 18 second person pronouns, 13 third person pronouns and 6 question pronouns of the language!

Australian Indigenous Languages Database

Annie Edwards-Cameron: Access to the Indigenous Languages Database can be found here, it is run as part of the Austlang system by  AIATSIS. ‘The database contains the following information about each Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language: alternative/variant names and spellings, history of the number of speakers, geographical distribution, classifications from various sources, resources, documentation, programs, researchers.”

I have found it a really interesting site, and it shows clearly how much work in research and recording there is still to be done.

Another site I’ve found helpful is this one, where you can download audio of stories told in Indigenous languages and the English translations.

Aboriginal Australia Map

Louka Parry:

Shows general areas for different Indigenous Peoples in Australia
Shows general areas for different language, tribal or nation groups of Aboriginal Australia

Here is a really interesting map showing the various Aboriginal groups of Australia. When I first saw this I was struck by the huge diversity across Australia.

“The Aboriginal Australia wall map represents work carried out for the Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia. Using the published resources available between 1988 and 1994, the map attempts to represent language, tribal or nation groups of Australia’s Indigenous peoples.”

Click the map to view/download a larger version through the Yale University website.

Michael Jarret teaching Gumbayngirr at Muurrbay

Nick Reid: This short snippet describes the language revival work currently being undertaken by Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative in Nambucca, NSW north coast. You can learn more about this organisation’s activities by visiting their website at http://www.muurrbay.org.au/