WHOSE LANGUAGE ARE YOU ON?
A Crash Course in Indigenous Languages
Settler Australians tend to know very little about the languages of this country; whilst most of us can easily rattle off the names of a dozen European languages, we struggle to name even a few Indigenous languages. In this series of talks, in recognition of UNESCO’s International Year of Indigenous Languages, we will learn about Indigenous languages of Australia, including those of Victoria and Melbourne, and hear about the challenges they face in the 21st century. Invasion and continuing colonialism have wrought massive destruction on these languages, and yet communities around the country are continuing their struggles to maintain and revitalize their languages. In these lectures we will hear firsthand from people who work with Indigenous languages and communities, and learn about languages that are being ‘woken up’ after generations of sleep, and some others that are just now falling silent.
Check out the flyer attached with details and share it around! And, for the curious, we’ve included full blurbs for each session below.
May 2nd: Learning Language, Learning Country
Very few non-Indigenous Australians learn Indigenous languages. What does this mean for their understanding of and sense of belonging in this country? In this talk, anthropologist John Bradley discusses his experience of learning the Yanyuwa language, spoken on the coast and islands of the Gulf of Carpenteria. He reflects on what learning language means for understanding country—a specific landscape that is embedded in social and spiritual relations. He also discusses what non-Indigenous Australian’s ignorance of Indigenous languages means for their understanding of the country—what does it mean to be Australian but not know an Australian language? John draws on over 30 years of experience working alongside Yanyuwa people in the Gulf of Carpenteria and his experience of being one of an increasingly small number of people who speak Yanyuwa fluently.
>>John Bradley is an Associate Professor at Monash University, where he is also deputy director of the Monash Indigenous studies Centre.
May 9th: Restoring language to community and country: what’s happening in Victoria
Vicki Couzens, Tonya Stebbins & Harley Dunolly-Lee
>>Vicki Couzens is a prominent artist and Gunditjmara Keerray Woorroong woman from the Western Districts of Victoria, who plays an active role in promoting the culture of her people. She has served on the boards of the Koorie Heritage Trust Inc and the Victorian Corporation for Aboriginal Languages. Tonya Stebbins is an Associate Professor of linguistics at La Trobe University.Harley Dunolly-Lee is a linguist and Aboriginal language worker with the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages, where they are developing a Dja Dja Wurrung dictionary in collaboration with the community. Dja Dja Wurrung is one of five language groups that make up the Kulin nation, on whose lands Melbourne was built.
May 23rd: Revitalising, Celebrating and Learning From Aboriginal Languages
Emma Murphy & Andrew Tanner
The Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity (RNLD) supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities who are working to re-awaken, strengthen and maintain their languages. We provide support, advocacy and – predominantly – training in linguistics and language teaching, in communities across the country. In this lecture, we present an overview of the past and present context of Australia’s first languages, and discuss why they matter and what we can learn from them. We will also highlight the difficult but inspiring work Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are doing to keep their languages strong, and how this fits into broader struggles for self-determination.
>>Emma Murphy is the Training Director at the Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity (RNLD), a non-for-profit that delivers training to Aboriginal communities across the country. Before joining RNLD she worked for many years with Aboriginal people in Central and Northern Australia. Andrew Tanner is a linguist and musician. As one of RNLD’s trainers Andrew delivers training to Aboriginal people throughout Australia.
May 30th: Prahran and Birrarung: Melbourne’s Indigenous Languages in Historical Archives
Archival records of the four language forms indigenous to the area around Melbourne were mostly created in the 19th century. Mostly these are word lists, but there are also short sentences, songs texts, and a few translations (such as the Bible), as well as an important set of audio recordings created in the 1960s. This presentation looks at the challenges and opportunities associated with locating and accessing these records, in order to understand, reconstruct, and help with the revitalization the languages of the Melbourne area. One particularly challenging issue is the variation contained in the archive – both Birrarung and Prahran represent the same word, but which is correct, and how should it be pronounced? Finding, understanding, and making these archives accessible to the community represent just one part of the important and daunting task of repairing the disastrous linguistic impacts of colonization.
>>Stephen Morey is a senior lecturer in linguistics at La Trobe University.