Aboriginal Language Education and Their Identity

In topic 9, we talk about Aboriginal languages in education and when researching the importance of not only teaching these languages but also teaching in them to indigenous children, I wanted to learn more about the way in which the loss of indigenous languages over the centuries has affected the newer generation of aboriginal children. Since the British invaded the Aboriginal land, the once abundant range of aboriginal language has slowly been disappearing as newer aboriginal generations are learning English as their primary language and most unable to speak their native language at all.

I came across a video that addresses the impact the loss of indigenous languages has had on aboriginal peoples identity. Language is the foundation of someone’s culture and without knowing your native language it can be extremely difficult to understand your cultural background and identity. This video made me think about how much of who we are comes from our family and cultural background and without the connection if language much of the understanding aboriginal children have for their identity is lost.

Although many communities are pushing for aboriginal children to learn in their native language, it is hard for these communities to know if their efforts are maintaining the results needed to keep many languages alive. In saying that, the effects that learning the native languages have had on children within these programs has been positive all around. Children are starting to understand the history of their communities and are gaining a deeper sense of identity. The elders are able to see their culture and history brought back to life through their grandchildren alike.

Schools such as Moss Vale high school have integrated the local community culture and language into the school’s education system through a program called ‘Our Ways’, rather than bringing it in as a second language subject. A problem with being able to replicate Moss Vale high school’s approach is the need for local and expert teachers in order to successfully integrate the language and culture into the school. Although, as long as schools are open and willing, then this approach is completely doable and effective.

Both these videos gave me greater insight into the impact of aboriginal education and the ways in which schools can implement the local languages into their curriculum and environment.
Rebecca Streatfield, LING366, 18/06/18

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Keeping Noongar language strong through songs

Kaya! Hello!

I would like to start by giving an overview of the Noongar language. Noongar is the official language of the Aboriginal people in the southwest region of Western Australia. The language is also known as Nyungar, Nyoongah, Noongar and many other ways of pronouncing and spelling it. According to the 2016 census by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were only about 475 native speakers left. Thus, according to Krauss’ definition, the Noongar language is not ‘safe’ as it doesn’t have an official status in government and education and also the fact that it has a small number of speakers. The word Noongar means person of the southwest of WA and it can be found in our beloved term Pama-Nyunga.

The reason why I chose Noongar is because I’m from Perth and it is the language of the land in which I walk. More specifically, it is the land of the Whadjuk Noongar people (for Noongar language groups see the map below by John D. Croft).

Noongar Groups of the South West of Western Australia (map by John D. Croft)

kalyakoorl album cover

Gina William and Guy Ghouse are multi-award-winning artists who perform acoustic songs in Noongar language. I had the wonderful opportunity to see them live in 2017 at a language teachers’ conference in Perth and it was quite an eye-opening experience for me. The first song that I heard from them was Wanjoo meaning welcome and I absolutely fell in love with the song because it’s very catchy and easy to remember. The term Wanjoo (also written as wandju, wanju, etc.) is very familiar to my ears because it is used in the ‘welcome to country’ speech here in Perth.

“Kaya noonakoort. Wandju, wandju, nidja Noongar Boodja. Nguny djurapin, nguny koort djurapin wanganiny noonakoort. “

“Hello everyone. Welcome to Noongar country. We are happy, our heart is happy to be speaking with you all.”

Here are some videos of Wanjoo by Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse. At the conference Gina told us that she actually used this song to teach her children some Noongar words and especially the directions (Djiarly, Koongal, Boyal, Marawar). This song is also used in workshops with school students to raise their awareness of the Noongar language and promote Noongar language revival. I have also found some videos of Wanjoo sung by high school choirs. The tune is merry and the words are easy to follow. So give it a go! You might find yourself randomly singing Wanjoo throughout the day as it is very catchy!

Wanjoo sung by the Hammond Park Primary School Choir:



In addition to Wandjoo, Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse are also known for their songs Kalyakoorl (forever) and Boorda (soon). This duo has won the prestigious WA Music Industry Award for Indigenous Act of the Year. If you have the time, have a look at their TEDxPerth talk and performance.

Kalyakoorl and Boorda by Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse (TEDx Perth, December 2015)

Their performance was very moving and educative. I learned that the word kaya means both hello and yes. I also found it fascinating that their counting system is one to five and after that it is considered “plenty”.  I also learned that in the Balardong community there is no proper word for goodbye like in the English language, instead, they use the expression boorda which means soon. They believe that one day our paths will cross again so instead of the harsh-sounding goodbye they prefer to say boorda-wan (talk soon) / boorda-djinang (see you soon).

Kalyakoorl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJXaeIVrI0A

Boorda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFBAJO6ZL6g

On Noongar Language: https://www.noongarculture.org.au/language/

Artists’ website: http://www.ginawilliams.com.au/bio.html

Collin Wiyoto, LING366, 28/05/18

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Local communities banding together for language revival.



Muurrbay is a regional language centre supporting seven Aboriginal languages along the NSW coast from the Central Coast (about 1 hour north of Sydney) up to the border of Queensland.  They started when elders of Gumbaynggirr, near Nambucca Heads, joined together to revive their language and with the help of linguist Brother Steve Morelli and produced the first Gumbaynggirr dictionary.  The language centre increased in 2004 to add a further six languages from along the coast line and it is now a thriving centre which develops language resources, research and provides community support for cultural activities. Further developments have been made with the centre, in 2011 it became a registered training organisation and now offers two certificate level qualifications in Gumbaynggirr language and culture.

With the number of Indigenous languages on the verge of extinction as discussed in Lecture 5 a cooperative such as this allows smaller groups of language speakers access to resources and support and a greater chance of survival and revitalisation among the younger generations.  Through the use of this digital centre, more remote or small communities of some distance have access to cultural and linguistic resources at their disposal.  It is also a step forward in encouraging or role modelling for other communities to begin or continue their efforts in language and culture preservation.

This centre is a great example of the power of cooperation and how even in small numbers when banded together can be successful makers of change.

Susan Davison Ling366

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The educational importance and preservation of language through oral history and song.

I wish to show how music can represent the best way of preserving language and also how it can be used to educate future generations whether it be used in a traditional or contemporary manner.


My first example is a sample from a vinyl record I’m in possession of titled Songs of the Tiwi and unfortunately I cannot add the audio even though I have tried numerous ways without having to pay

. (is expensive) so i’ll just upload the cover photos instead.

This is a more traditional approach both in the format used and in  its scope. The song about Cyclone Tracy is particularly touching, its titled the Kulama Song.

My second example which is from Tiwi college is more contemporary as it uses youtube as its platform and mixes traditional methods of song with more westernised genres. It is a school/ community project and implements both traditional Tiwi language and English.

This also reflects Northern territories bilingual education programs and how two- way language can co-exist and be educational to the students in so far as it encourages literacy but it also helps strengthen their cultural identity through the use of traditional languages.

Cole Hillman Ling366

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Revitalising the language of the NSW South Coast

When researching the language groups of the NSW south coast area, I came across a very interesting story on ABC OPEN.
This link https://open.abc.net.au/explore/205813 provides a short article about the efforts of Aboriginal elders of the NSW South Coast in the region between Bomaderry (near Nowra) and Eden working toward reviving their traditional language. There is also a 10 minute video story that shows how this revitalisation project which started by recording the language by a number of elders in the region. This moved on to creating an audio dictionary after verifying pronunciation and spelling and lead to creating a database of the language in Miromaa (www.miromaa.org.au) and forming resources to teach the language to the younger generation. Aboriginal students at the Eden Public School and High School have been learning the language through this materials since early 2017.

Interestingly, across this region there are several languages including:
Dhurga – Wandandean to Wallaga Lake area
Djiringanj – Wallaga Lake to Merimbula
Thawa – South of Merimbula
The article explains that this region of NSW was heavily affected by colonisation which significantly impacted on the language. The aim of this particular Our Languages Our Way Program of NSW Aboriginal Affairs program was to capture the more common trade language which had been used across this area.
This story and article are very interesting and provide a very good example of how language revitalisation is an important cultural factor.

The Miromaa website is also very interesting from this perspective (www.miromaa.org.au) and very much worth having a look at. According to the website Miromaa Aboriginal Language & Technology Centre is a not-for-profit organisation which supports the documentation and conservation of languages.
The site provides a quote from the Queensland Indigenous Languages Advisory Committee (2006) which really highlights how important the revitalisation and safeguarding of traditional languages is. It quotes: “Language is the expression of our culture and our land. We cannot have one without the other. We cannot describe our culture and our land if we do not have language.”

T. Hardy – LING366

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Say G’day

I came across this invitation by the State Library of Queensland for Queenslanders to learn and use a greeting from their local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language during NAIDOC week in 2017. The aim was to “help raise awareness and promote Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages”.

The invitation includes a simple guide to the pronunciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sounds in general, as well as a collated list of greetings for all the Queensland indigenous languages.

They were asking “schools, organisations, communities, individuals, etc. to find out their local word for ‘G’day’ or ‘Hello’ and use it during this week”.

I found this a beautifully simple way of introducing non-indigenous speaking Australians to their local Indigenous language and a great example of language maintenance and revitalization.

Whilst I live in far north NSW (Bundjalung country) I was able to look up how to greet someone in Yugarabul, the language spoken in the western suburbs of Brisbane where my parents in-law live. I look forward to teaching my three young boys how to greet their grandparents in a way that has been done long before they were around next time we visit.

Content reference:


Matthew Johnson, Ling366, 18 May 2018

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How Fast A Language Can Change!

I stumbled across these clips while looking at some information on Dyirbal, an Aboriginal language from Queensland. They very briefly explain how languages shift and change over time, using Dyirbal as an example, as it was a strange case in which the language shifted so quickly over such little amount of time that linguists were confused!

Kayla Richardson LING566 18/05/2018

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Schema Theory Applied to Non-Indigenous Conceptions of Aboriginal Culture

Having studied Australia’s Indigenous languages through LING366 and the Aboriginal English dialect through another LING unit, I’ve found that schematic theory features heavily in understanding how we view the world. While examining schema theory and how it is reflected in Aboriginal language, I began thinking about what schema govern my thought patterns, and how this influences my understanding of Aboriginal culture.

Put simply, ‘Schemata [schema plural] are the structures by which people perceive, remember and respond to information’ (Turton, 2016). So what are the schema through which non-Indigenous Australians perceive Aboriginal Australians? From personal experience, my first encounter with Aboriginal culture was discovering that my home town was also home to the Darug people. During primary school, I learned about the heritage status of my local area as well as the prestige and benevolence of our colonial forebears. I also learned that Aboriginal Australians possessed an unrivaled knowledge of navigation, survival, tracking, and bush skills. Through the NSW primary school HSIE syllabus, I inferred that the demise of Aboriginal Australians may have had something to do with Australia’s colonisation. Later, I learned how Aboriginal Australians were oppressed, mistreated and almost totally wiped out through genocide.

These formative concepts shaped my thinking about Aboriginal Australians, making me think of them as victims who suffered the loss of their land, knowledge and relationships. But, it also caused me to see Aboriginal culture through a ‘past tense’ lens. And this limited my ability to comprehend that Aboriginal culture and language, although oppressed and embattled, was still living, breathing, developing, and thriving. During the course of my research, one of the most valuable resources I discovered was Dr. Nicola Henry’s ‘Misconceptions About Indigenous Australians’ (2013). Henry’s article essentially debunks commonly held non-Indigenous assumptions about Australian Aboriginal culture, and is a must read for anyone new to the subject.

Posted by: Jessica Riley LING366, 18 May 18

Dr Henry’s article can be found at: http://www.australiancollaboration.com.au/pdf/FactSheets/Common-misconceptions-Indigenous-FactSheet.pdf

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Permission to Speak

Permission to Speak

I came across this article http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-30/nt-indigenous-mla-yingiya-mark-guyula-wants-speak-native-tongue/8077696

I believe it is relevant to our course, Ling366 as it related to language loss and maintenance.  It also hit a chord with me that a native of our country , a representative of his constituents and people has to conform or be reprimanded for not using English, which is not officially our National language.

In this article an independent MLA Yinglya Mark Guyula is speaking out about not being permitted to use his native language when speaking in Parliament. He was expressing the frustration that the process required to translate was long and no extra time given to do so. He believes that more indigenous people might participate if they could use their native language. That due to being forced to use his second language that he could not effectively spread his message.  Mr Guyula was quoted saying “In the end, there’s a message that I want to get through from my language, from my cultural background and towards the English community, and that is the gap that we want to close’.

We are in a country where our indigenous politicians are basically being told that English is our national language and they must conform and ask permission to do otherwise. In such a public arena where Mr Guyula is wanting to maintain his native language of Yolngu Matha and encourage others to do so and use their voice, it emphasizes barriers for this to occur. By being discouraged to use his native language to spread a message of political importance could be a factor in language loss and a barrier to maintenance.


Louise Watts , Ling366, 18/5/2018


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Painting the Songlines – Warlukurlangu Artists of Yuendumu

Uploaded by Marcelo Salvo, LING556

I found this relevant to the content of the unit because of the topic of Songlines. I also found it interesting because of the way in which language is used in storytelling.

At 18:55, several women sit around recounting a story. One of them takes the lead but others chip in details as well, in a brainstorming kind of way. As the story unfolds, a visual representation of it is being sketched out on the sand. First, leaves are placed to mark spatial relationship between characters. All throughout the story someone chants a song. It is interesting to see how different art forms merge with ease here simultaneously. Also interesting is that even though the story has an improvisational feel to it, it sounds like an old story being retold. Another standout feature for me is the way in which language is used in terms of politeness of tone, particularly at the start of the story, where the old lady is asked to look after the baby by the woman who goes hunting with her husband. Although I cannot say for sure, it reminded me of language of respect around certain relationships.




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