Indigenous Languages Research Discovery Workshop (24-26 February 2014)

As part of State Library’s Indigenous Languages project, an Indigenous Languages Research Discovery Workshop was held in the JOL Reading Room from 24-26 February. This event drew together 20 participants from across Queensland to research the State Library collections as well as share ideas and network about language revival in Queensland communities. The workshop participants were drawn from Cape York, North Queensland, Fraser Coast and South-East Queensland – individuals had experience/interest in languages and worked in schools, museums, Indigenous Knowledge Centres and Indigenous Language Centres.

Original Materials including notebooks, journals, etc.

Original materials from the State Library collections such as Notebooks, Journals and Pastoral Records  were very popular with the workshop participants – approximately 50 languages were researched over the course of the three days ranging from the Torres Strait to Gold Coast and west to the NT border! A broad selection of print items in the collection included linguistic materials, historical texts as well as language dictionaries. In addition to being research items, these materials also provided participants with ideas for their local language communities.

Desert Channels picture dictionaries for Lake Eyre Basin languages.

A recent addition to the collections was the set of Lake Eyre Basin Picture Dictionaries – these were compiled by Desert Channels Queensland a natural resource management organisation based in Longreach. Working with the Traditional Owners of the Lake Eyre basin and a linguist, the end result was a series of eye-catching resources for Pitta Pitta, Koa, Yulluna, Kalkadoon and Waluwarra languages. These five booklets are the first step in documenting the sixteen languages of the region. Workshop participants were very impressed with these materials as learning/teaching resources for their communities.

Eric studying a map showing language groups moved to Cherbourg.

While the majority of time was spent researching the collections, participants also heard from several guest speakers, including University of Queensland Linguistics School who provided an overview of their work in communities, particularly Woorabinda and iTalk Library an innovative software program for creating virtual stories.

Barry and Kerry at the ‘Those days … living history project’, QPAC Tunnel

Workshop participants were also encouraged to make the most of other cultural events and exhibitions happening across the precinct, including the Our Dreaming Animating Country exhibition and the ‘Those days … living history project’.

Irene Ryder (Gunggari) and Pat O’Connor (Yugambeh) at the Roundtable.

A culminating event was held on the Wednesday afternoon to generate discussion about the state of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and what issues are impacting on their revival. Research Discovery Workshop participants were joined by others to share information about the diverse range of language projects happening in their communities. Such projects range from small individual or family activities to those coordinated via language centres through to larger-scale projects supported by external organisations/collecting institutions.

Queensland Indigenous Languages Roundtable.

This inaugural Queensland Indigenous Languages Roundtable also explored ways to coordinate projects and energies as well as promote languages in the broader community. The outcomes from this event will also inform the work of State Library and how the organisation can support language revival activities in Queensland communities.

Audience at the Reclaiming Lost Languages Panel.

Many of the workshop participants stayed on for the Reclaiming Lost Languages panel on the Wednesday evening. This was a great way to end a very productive workshop and share our aspirations for language revival in Queensland communities.

This initiative was supported by funding from the Indigenous Languages Support Program (ILS) from the Australian Government’s Attorney-General’s Department, Ministry for the Arts.

Photographs of the Research Discovery Workshop, Roundtable and Reclaiming Lost Languages Panel courtesy of Barry Brown who holds the rare distinction of attending all Research Discovery Workshops since 2009!

Desmond Crump – Indigenous Languages Researcher, State Library of Queensland

Further information on Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages can be found at the State Library of Queensland’s Indigenous Languages Webpages.

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Blog: