Language Contains the Essence
Language is important for helping one gain a sense of identity and belonging, both of which are key to the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people.
There are thought to have been 250 Aboriginal languages and 600 dialects spoken in Australia before the invasion. Many Aboriginal people were able to speak at least two or three and up to five languages or dialects fluently. As they had an oral culture they were masters in remembering, contrary to the dominant western culture today which relies on the written word.
Today, only 60 Aboriginal languages are considered 'alive' and in use as a first tongue. There are 40,00 Noongar Aboriginal people in the area of Australia where we live. Only 250 speak the Noongar language.
Many Aboriginal languages are lost because up until the 1970s government policies banned and discouraged Aboriginal people from speaking their languages.
I’ve taken some quotes from the excellent Creative Spirits website as they portray much better than I can about how essential language is.
“The important thing about language and what it means is that language contains the essence of the ancestors, every word comes from place, and identifies people and links to land, country, the dreaming; they are all inherent in language, therefore it means the people, the land, everything.” Yolngu Elder Laurie Baymarrwangga
“Yolngu [north-Australian] language is our power, our foundation, our root and everything that holds us together. [It] gives us strength; language is our identity, who we are. Yolngu language gives us pride. Language is our law and justice." Yalmay Yunupingu, Aboriginal teacher
There is no formal inclusion of Aboriginal languages in Australia schools, despite the fact that many children learn Asian languages. However, Creative Spirits notes that there are 6,400 children in Western Australia studying an Aboriginal language.
Teaching Aboriginal languages increases the esteem and pride of Aboriginal students, and it has a positive impact on their attendance and participation in school.
Janet Hayden, Noongar Elder and language teacher said: “They wanted more and more, and when we left the teachers all said, ‘Please come back, don’t forget us’, and that was in a white community. One very distinguished gentleman came up to me and he had tears in his eyes and said I had opened his eyes to Aboriginal culture and what Aboriginal people were all about.”
Please check out the Shakespeare's Sonnets in Aboriginal Noongar language to which Kylie refers.
A Perth Baladong artist is preparing to launch her full length Album almost entirely in the Noongar language. Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse have completed recording their first album together titled Kalya Koo looking to inject some of our language into the wider musical world.