Living Our Languages

Living Our Languages –Symposium

Indigenous Services team of SLNSW in collaboration with the University of Sydney launched NAIDOC Week with the ‘Living our Languages’ Symposium at the Mitchell library on Wednesday 28 June 2017.

We met with the Indigenous Services team who took us for a tour through the library study rooms, Indigenous exhibition wall and the exhibits walkway ending in the historic Mitchell Library Reading Rooms and Special Collections Area. Here we were able to view and access some very rare materials including a diary of the ‘Pioneering days of Miriam Vale and district’ by W. G. Blomfield. This item contained many Gureng Gureng words recorded between 1854-1890s, including personal names and place names. A digitised copy can be viewed at Pioneering days MiriamVale and district W.G. Blomfield.

The Symposium opened with a very warm Welcome to Country by Metropolitan LALC Elder and Acknowledgement of Country sung by Jodi Edwards acknowledging the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation as the traditional custodians of the area.

First speaker of the day was Jaky Troy talking about – When archives ‘speak’ languages wake up. She spoke of her research and of the words collected by her in a dictionary she compiled which was based on the diaries of William Dawes [First Fleet] and others.  Linguist Dr Rob Amery was the next speaker and his topic was – The Role of Archives in Kaurna Revival. He was part of a team at the Adelaide University where Kaurna language was slowly brought back to life, by often relying on “neighbouring “languages to work out how to pronounce words.

Following on from Dr Amery, Jack Buckskin, a Kaurna man with many years of experience in learning and teaching his language, spoke of his language journey and how he is now raising his children in Kaurna. We then viewed the film Buckskin which tells the story of Jack, describing him as a “local hero” who is “doing something extraordinary in renewing his culture as part of a modern dreaming”.  Trailer of Buckskin the film can be viewed  here. The day closed with the launch of My Weekend with Pop – Stories in Aboriginal Languages, an online education resource developed by the State Library in partnership with Yuwaalaraay artist Lucy Simpson.

I left the SLNSW feeling inspired and positive about the work that is surrounding language maintenance and revival.

Rose Warsow

Indigenous Languages, Project Officer, State Library of Queensland