Wearing my Storytelling Australia Vic hat, I attended a public lecture at Melbourne University given by Paul Paton (Gunnai Monero, Executive Officer VACL) and Mandy Nicholson (Wurundjeri, Project Officer VACL): The revival of Victorian Aboriginal languages.
The lecture began with a Welcome to Country from Colin Hunter Junior (Wurundjeri Elder).
We were asked to consider for a moment the richness of Australian Languages prior to 1788 – upwards of 250 with 600 dialects. Currently only 15 – 20 are still being learned as a first language. The First Australians were, and many still are, multilingual. Fluency in five or six languages is not unusual.
All the Victorian languages are in revival mode. Mandy referred to them as having been ‘asleep’ but now with energy coming from the communities, they are being revived. She emphasised the connection between language, identity and well-being and the cruelty of past practice when Aboriginal people were forbidden to speak their languages.
There are 38 recognised languages in Victoria. We were asked to respect Community protocols around language. And here I will quote from the text on the back of the language map I brought home with me.
‘…The learning and teaching of Aboriginal languages can be a sensitive issue for Indigenous communities and care needs to be taken when considering using language. When seeking access to Aboriginal languages, it is vital to understand the issues involved and to work together with local communities. It must be noted that Victorian Aboriginal languages are in revival mode and Traditional Custodians are the only ones with the authority to share language…’
The VACL website is a rich resource providing language maps, apps, information about school language programs, contacts for permission to use language, pronunciation and protocol questions. It’s worth checking out the online shop. There are bilingual stories, dictionaries and teaching resources.
Paul suggested people look at Nyernila – listen continuously: Aboriginal Creation Stories of Victoria. It can be downloaded for free HERE.
Please if you wish to learn more, I encourage you to explore the VACL website HERE.
You may also be interested in the Research Unit for Indigenous Language (RUIL) University of Melbourne HERE.
Also Melbourne Museum Bunjilaka HERE.
If you are attending events that you think are of interest to the Storytelling community please write them up and drop me line. firstname.lastname@example.org . I love receiving news and stories of your events and adventures.
Jackie Kerin ( blog editor)