Stan Grant Sr : Wiradjuri Language Revivalist

Stan Grant (Jr) is a renowned Australian journalist and broadcaster of Indigenous heritage. He is Indigenous Affairs editor for Guardian Australia. This article celebrates the significant achievements of his father, Stan Grant (Sr), who, in collaboration with linguist John Rudder, has been responsible for initiating and facilitating the revival of his peoples’ ‘sleeping’ Wiradjuri language over the past thirty years.

Wiradjuri Country is the largest Indigenous nation in NSW; bordered by the Blue Mountains (east), Hay (west), Nyngan (north) and Albury (south). Whilst its people occupy various areas across this wide region of central NSW, mid-twentieth-century government Assimilation policies and Stolen Generation attitudes/actions spanning Stan Grant Sr’s childhood, necessitated suppression of  Indigenous cultural practices and language use, thereby resulting in the loss of common usage of Wiradjuri along with countless other Aboriginal languages. Stan Grant Sr recalls the incident which caused his maternal grandfather, Wildfred Johnson, known as Budyaan, to cease speaking Wiradjuri in public, and his own mothers’ legacy of fear and secrecy regarding language use.

I found this particularly interesting as I work with a colleague of Indigenous heritage who experienced a similar ‘culture of suppression’ passed down through generations within her own family; a forbidden and subsequently diminishing legacy of Aboriginality, resulting in her having little knowledge of traditional mores and no knowledge or experience of her ancestors’ languages. She is interested in learning about both; the countries of her forebears and the languages belonging to them.

It is the passionate work of people like Stan Grant Sr who make such learning; recovery of inheritance of identity through language, possible. Begun in the 1980s, his revival of the Wiradjuri language has produced dictionaries, and grammar and educational text resources, as well as a smartphone application. His own teaching of Wiradjuri in Canberra and across NSW has resulted in twelve hundred students currently studying the language in the Parkes region, and a Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri being offered at Charles Sturt University in Dubbo.

Carey Watts.


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