at The Wheeler Centre

Word for Word: Celebrating Indigenous Literature

Bir'yun is a Yolngu word denoting qualities of sparkle, glitter and shine. The word is sometimes used by artists when they are nearing completion of bark paintings. Suddenly the energy of the ancestors comes alive on the bark – and the painting becomes bir'yun.

To mark the announcement of the winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing, join us for a discussion of the intricacy and potency of unique words from the languages of Australia’s first peoples.

Daniel Browning, Bruce Pascoe and Jessie Lloyd will introduce and define a favourite word in language, then discuss why this word is precious and how it defies English translation. We’ll also explore the power these words have to express different types of knowledge and distinctive ways of making sense of the world.

Presented in partnership with The Poet’s Voice.


Portrait of Bruce Pascoe

Bruce Pascoe

Bruce Pascoe is a Bunurong, Yuin and Tasmanian man born in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. He is a member of the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative of southern Victoria and has been the director of the Australian Studies Project for the Commonwealth Schools Commission. Bruce has had a varied career as a teacher, farmer, fisherman, barman, fencing contractor, lecturer, Aboriginal language researcher, archaeological site worker and editor. His book Fog a Dox won the Young Adult category of the 2013 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. His most recent book is Dark Emu: Black Seeds: agriculture or accident, which won the NSW Premier’s Book of the Year Award in 2016.

Portrait of Daniel Browning

Daniel Browning

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. 

Portrait of Jessie Lloyd

Jessie Lloyd

An award winning musician, composer and creative entrepreneur, Jessie Lloyd is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman from the tropics of North Queensland. Jessie has experience in the areas of musical direction, arts management and sector development; dedicated to the progress of modern Indigenous culture through the mediums of music and song.


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