NAIDOC Week’s theme for 2015 “We all stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate” highlights the ongoing spiritual connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to land and sea. It also provides a focus for schools, communities, IKCs and libraries to celebrate Indigenous culture and language. Connection to country also reinforces the connection of language to land as shown in the following extract from Tindale’s 1974 map. Tindale was one of the first anthropologists to explore the concept of Indigenous languages being spoken across regions.
The official NAIDOC website has a range of resources and suggested activities to ‘pay respects to country; honour those who work tirelessly on preserving land, sea and culture and to share the stories of many sites of significance or sacred places with the nation.’ Ideas for NAIDOC Week 2015 include visiting significant sites with community Elders; listening to stories of place; identifying traditional languages of an area; and exploring caring for country.
An interesting activity is to identify the traditional placenames of your local area – often these had a storyline which explained the significance of sites across the landscape before Anglicised names appeared. For example, Helidon Spa at the foot of the Toowoomba range, was known by the Yuggera people as ‘Woonarrajimmi’ which means ‘where the clouds fell down’ – there is a local Aboriginal Dreaming story that describes how the springs were formed.
The State Library has a range of materials relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander placenames including origins and meanings of Indigenous placenames that feature on contemporary maps, street directories, etc. A selection of these are listed below in the References and Further Reading section.
This NAIDOC Week, make the time to find out more about your local and regional languages to explore the connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to land and sea. Learn about stories of country, respect traditional knowledge and celebrate Indigenous cultures. This NAIDOC Week (5-12 July), the State Library of Queensland encourages schools, libraries and other organisations to support their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the sacred ground on which we all stand!
Indigenous Languages Coordinator, Queensland Memory
State Library Indigenous Languages Webpages
South-East Queensland Placenames information guide
References and Further Reading
Brisbane History Group (1990) Brisbane: local, oral and placename history. G 994.31 1990
Dixon, R. M. W. (1991) Words of our country : stories, place names and vocabulary in Yidiny, the Aboriginal language of the Cairns-Yarrabah region. G 499.15 1991
Kerwin, D. (2011) “Language and Landscape: European words in Aboriginal spaces”. Out of the Port session. Available online as a webcast via SLQ Website.
Lamington Natural History Society (199?) Place names in Lamington National Park. VF 910.3 pla
Map of Cape York, showing Aboriginal place names [microform] : Shells at Port Essington. FILM 0708
Milne, R. (1993) Dahs and bahs: Aboriginal Placenames of Southern Queensland. Q 910.014 MIL
Mitchell, T. L. (1849) Out Letters Surveyor General NSW. State Library of New South Wales Film Z2828.
Queensland Place Names Board (1963) Interim Gazetteer of Queensland Place Names. REF 919.43 1963
Queensland Place Names Board (19-) Aboriginal place names, words and meanings collected at ‘Terrick Terrick’, Blackall, Central Queensland, about 1886. VF 919.43003 que
Queensland place names cutting book [Microform] MFL 919.43
Roth, W. E. (1898-1903) “Reports to the Commissioner of Police and others, on Queensland aboriginal peoples 1898-1903.” FILM 0714
Simpson, J. (1975) Placenames of Southern Queensland. P 910.014 sim
Steele, J. G. (1984) Aboriginal Pathways in Southeast Queensland and the Richmond River. Q 994.3102 ste
Tindale, N. B. (1974) Aboriginal tribes of Australia: their terrain, environmental controls, distribution, limits and proper names. Q 994.0049915 tin
Watson, F. J. (1944) Vocabularies of Four Representative Tribes of South Eastern Queensland. REFJ 499.15 wat