The Wheeler Centre
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Pass it On: Preserving Australian Indigenous Languages
‘Budgerigar’, ‘quandong’, ‘Torana’, ‘Canberra’ – there are many Aboriginal words in everyday use by both non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians. What do we gain from knowing and learning First Nations words? And how can we embed more traditional language into the daily lives of all Australians?
At least 250 Indigenous Australian languages were spoken on this continent in 1788. Today only around 120 Indigenous languages are spoken in homes and most of these are considered endangered. For many years, elders have been working hard to document, share and promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island languages across the country. But in the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages there’s an especially strong momentum building around this issue.
In this conversation, hosted by Daniel Browning, our panellists including Kelrick Martin, Aaron Fa'aoso, Vicki Couzens, Brendan Kennedy and Fay Stewart-Muir discuss campaigns across the country to revitalise and celebrate Indigenous languages. They talk about the utility, beauty and knowledge contained within both traditional and modern, changing languages – and the efforts to recognise and preserve them.
Looking for Auslan? Check out the video of this event.
Kelrick is a Ngarluma/Bunuba man from Broome, Western Australia, who started out as a cadet radio broadcaster for Goolarri Media. Moving to Sydney in 1998, he presented ABC Radio National's Awaye! and was the inaugural presenter of ABC TV's Message Stick. In 2002 he completed a Master of Documentary Writing and Directing at AFTRS, and in 2007 returned to WA to become NITV’s Commissioning Editor.
He formed Spear Point Productions in 2010 – with credits including documentaries Yagan, Outside Chance, Prison Songs, and the short drama, Karroyul – a 2015 AACTA Award nominee. Kelrick was most recently the Indigenous Manager for Western Australia’s state screen funding agency, Screenwest.
Brendan Kennedy was born at Robinvale on Tati Tati Country and is a descendant of the Tati Tati, Wadi Wadi and Mutti Mutti tribal lands and language groups. Brendan is a member of the First Peoples Yulendj Group, who collaborated with Museum Victoria to produce the award-winning First Peoples exhibition; has previously served on the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee; is a Tati Tati delegate for Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations and is the Director of the Tati Tati Aboriginal Corporation. Brendan is an artist who specialises in painting and creating cultural and ceremonial objects.
Aaron Fa’Aoso is best known for his appearances in ABC’s Black Comedy, which was nominated for Most Outstanding Comedy Program at the 2015 Logies and won an AACTA for Best Direction. Aaron recently completed shooting Stephen McCallum’s feature 1% and was seen in the Nine Network drama series, Hyde & Seek and in Ivan Sen’s feature film Goldstone which opened the 2016 Sydney Film Festival.
In 2016, his production company Lone Star, along with Bunya Productions, produced a 3 x 1hr drama documentary series on the history of the Torres Strait Islands called Blue Water Empire. Aaron is one of 3 producers on the series, which is screening through July 2019 on ABC1 and iView.
Daniel Browning is an Aboriginal journalist, radio broadcaster, sound artist and writer. Currently, he is produces and presents Awaye!, the Indigenous art and culture program on the ABC’s specialist journalism and arts network Radio National. Awaye! surveys contemporary Indigenous cultural practice across the arts spectrum. A visual arts graduate, Daniel is also a widely published freelance writer on the arts and culture.
Fay Stewart-Muir is a Boon Wurrung elder of the Yalukut Weelum of the Boon Wurrung, Wamba Wamba and Wergiai clans.
Stewart-Muir has worked for the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL) for over 10 years as a Cultural Educator and language specialist, specialising in the Boon Wurrung language and being on the journey of language revitalisation, which they share with audiences when invited to speak on the subject.
Vicki Couzens is a Gunditjmara woman from the Western Districts of Victoria. Vicki acknowledges her Ancestors and Elders who guide her work.
She has worked in Aboriginal community affairs for almost 40 years. Vicki’s contributions in the reclamation, regeneration and revitalisation of cultural knowledge and practice extend across the ‘arts and creative cultural expression’ spectrum including language revitalisation, ceremony, community arts, public art, visual and performing arts, and writing.