Sparking young people’s interest is a crucial part of creating a deeper understanding of Victorian Aboriginal Language revival in the broader community. On February 23, Mandy presented a workshop to Year 9 students at Mount Scopus Memorial College in Burwood with a focus on language and culture. She explained her Woiwurrung language revival story which generated a lot of questions in relation to Aboriginal language and identity from the students. At the end of the workshop, Mandy taught the students how to sing "heads-shoulders-knees-and-toes" in the Woiwurrung language.
Ittay Flescher, Community Service and Achshav Coordinator at Mount Scopus Memorial College, had attended a VACL event at the State Library of Victoria and was keen to invite VACL to present a cultural program at their school. He described Mandy’s presentation as exceptional due to her “breadth of technical knowledge of the history and related issues, as well as her ability to relay their symbolic cultural significance to the students.” Ittay added that Mandy presented a very difficult history with both honesty and sensitivity, being inclusive and not alienating the audience of students.
Mandy was interested in hearing about the history of Hebrew language revival and the parallels with Victorian Aboriginal languages. Students at Mount Scopus Memorial College were appreciative of this opportunity to discuss language revival with Mandy. Drawing these parallels and discussing difficult history has a positive impact on young peoples’ cross-cultural awareness and understanding.
To see students singing in Woiwurrung click here
For digital resources in Woiwurrung language click here
The Shearwaters are celebrated as symbols of local and global interconnectedness. This year, the Shearwater Festival focussed on ‘Connecting to Country’ providing opportunities to learn about Aboriginal culture and the environment and to develop a deeper understanding of place. The festival took place on 25, 26 and 27 of November in various locations across Phillip Island.
There was motion on the ocean Friday night but for those who braved the cold wind and swell it was an inspiring excursion as the festival began with a boat trip around Cape Woolamai to see thousands of Shearwaters at sunset getting ready to fly back to their rookeries with the days the catch.
A packed program of non-stop quality musicians took to the stage for Saturday’s concert on Churchill Island, including the award winning Kutcha Edwards who recently received the Melbourne Prize for Music which is awarded to a Victorian musician whose work has made an outstanding contribution to Australian music and has enriched cultural and public life. Kutcha also took time to share stories and speak with local community in the yarning circle.
Sunday saw the introduction of new events to this year’s festival including the Cape Woolamai Fun Run which aims to get the community out and see the habitat of the Shearwaters and to encourage healthy life styles and learning about nature. The street parade, workshops, smoking ceremony, presentations and a twilight walk also took place on Sunday.
Preceding the Festival was the Shearwater Education Program which is facilitated in local schools and includes visits from artists, musicians, environmentalists and Community Elders and Respected Peoples. Linked to the Festival and the Education Program is the Cross-Cultural Message Exchange, in which artworks and messages are shared between artists, children and Indigenous Elders around the world.
Scroll down to see an image gallery from this years festival
Uncle David Tournier has been involved in language all his life. His Country involves three places; Narrindjerri (Mothers side-Tateari Clan), Yorta Yorta (Birth Fathers side), Wathaurong (Great, Great, Great Grand Father).
Gobata! is the Wathaurong Language class Uncle David Tournier runs every Thursday. The class has a mix of people including school teachers, members of the Geelong One Fire Reconciliation Group, Aboriginal people and people from the Geelong community. Uncle David is keen to teach anyone who is interested and welcomes all to his classes.
Uncle David says that language is moving along well in Geelong, “people from the community are flooding in with language requests and various schools are screaming out for language.” He is thankful to be working closely with his daughter on language.
“My biggest worry is that when I retire who will continue my work? It’s so good that my daughter Myranda is taking on language responsibilities. We have always had keepers, the keeper of songs, of clapsticks, of stories, this hasn’t changed today and we need to continue that cultural way of doing things. I hope she can continue the language program” said Uncle David.
As well as the language program Uncle David works tirelessly on a range of other projects including handling community translation and naming requests, working with local artists on various projects, sharing knowledge out on country, re-telling creation stories in Wathaurong for upcoming publications and working on translations for the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) to assist in getting Wathaurong language into local school curriculums.
Uncle David is also working with the Wathaurong Children’s Choir whose members have developed their own song about the magpie. David is working on translating this song into Wathaurong which he will then teach to the children. The choir have also worked with primary school students to submit a song to the Marrin Gamu song competition hosted by First Languages Australia.
Wathaurong Language Classes run each Thursday from 11am – 12pm at the Wathaurong Co-operative in Geelong. These classes are open to anyone interested in learning language. To register your interest, call Meryl on 5277 0044.
For those interested in keeping up to date with Wathaurong language news, you can join Uncle David’s Language Clan group on Facebook
Learn more about Uncle David Tournier in this story Deadly Dad on the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative website
Watch this video of Uncle David reading Yengying Karroong
The mosquitoes are big along the Murray River but last week there was an even bigger buzz in town when students in Robinvale had the opportunity to fly a drone over the school, town and flood waters. In collaboration with VACL, Brendan Kennedy and the Aboriginal community in Robinvale were the successful recipients of the IDX Flint Program administered by the National Centre for Indigenous Digital Excellence. IDX Flint is a program that sparks the interest, ideas and talent of young Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders in making digital technology.
FLINT Manager Grant Cameron, Learning Experience Designer Celeste Carnegie and Programs Coordinator Claude Williams travelled to Robinvale from Sydney to host three days of mentoring, activities and workshops at the Clontarf Academy at Robinvale P-12 College. Aboriginal students in higher grades were given the opportunity to fly a drone, build and program lego robots, use 3D printers and code trackways for ozobots. Students then taught these skills to the younger classes in self-led group activities. One of the highlights of the week was certainly watching how eager and capable these older students were in quickly using these new skills in leadership roles to teach others. The community were also treated to some basketball skill building with multitalented Wiradjuri sportsman Claude Williams, who played with the Sydney SuperSonics among many other significant sporting achievements in basketball, rugby and cricket.
"This is future Koorie education at its best, the possibilities of this to teach language are endless. It really broadens the horizon of what we can do, bringing the old ways and new technology together," said Brendan Kennedy.
The community in Robinvale are now deciding which equipment they will keep in their community for ongoing digital learning experiences, language education and cultural projects. The possibilities are limitless in the imagination of children and they are the ones who can take digital excellence to new levels. We’ll be following their lead with great interest!
Applications for the next round of the IDX Flint Program will open soon – keep your eye on their website for details!
Four talented musicians have come together for Singing from Country, a project that aims to create music that connects people to place. Neil Murray, Kavisha Mazzella, Carl Pannuzzo and Eva Popov are the songwriters that will participate in the program where they will learn about the role of the Dja Dja Wurrung language in connecting to place, people and seasons. VACL has been involved in the Singing from Country project through linking participants to local community to provide knowledge to songwriters and through giving cultural guidance. VACL’s Executive Officer Paul Paton spoke about the importance of this project that connects language and song, “Victoria’s Aboriginal Languages reflect a deep connection to the land, providing us wisdom about how to care for it.” VACL’s Community Linguist, Kris Eira and Dja Dja Wurrung woman Rebecca Philips facilitated workshops about aspects of knowledge and language.
This is the first stage of the project, which will eventually expand across Victoria. “Music is a universal language. It tells stories. It helps communicate love for land, deepen knowledge of country and strengthen community. People singing together about country is a powerful force for uniting and galvanizing action” said Terry White, the project’s creator. This October a community gathering will provide the opportunity to share the wisdom of key knowledge holders and hear from the community where all interested community members, both from within the region and outside, are welcome to attend. The gathering will include a showcase concert where the four songwriters will unveil their songs. Local choir-leaders will then arrange and rehearse the new songs with their singing groups, culminating in a performance of the songs by choirs in a celebratory event as part of Castlemaine State Festival in March 2017.
Singing from Country launches with a Workshop and Concert as part of the 2016 Maldon Folk Festival, October 29th 2016
In September 2016 VACL staff travelled via the flood diversions to Robinvale to work with VACL board member Brendan Kennedy and the Tati Tati, Mutti Mutti, Latji Latji and Wadi Wadi communities.
In a series of workshops over three days, a group of children were given the opportunity to create artwork, take photographs and record language words and songs for an upcoming app to be released featuring languages from North West Victoria.
Using iPads, cameras and art materials the children set out to illustrate close to 100 words for the upcoming Tyalingi App. The group were also recorded singing burpi, niti, partingi, thinangi (heads, shoulders, knees, toes) as part of a suite of songs which will also feature in the app. Children were then given the opportunity to individually practice and record Tati Tati, Mutti Mutti, Latji Latji and Wadi Wadi words with Brendan.
Brendan Kennedy runs the Robinvale Language Program Yakila Yarna Thalingi (Learning to Speak Language) at Robinvale P-12 College.
For more information on Yakila Yarna Thanlingi click here
Songs from Brendan Kennedy's book Wangilatha Wangu nga Kiyawatha will also feature in the upcoming app.
John ‘Uncle Sandy’ Atkinson was a Bangerang Elder born at Cummeragunja Mission, in 1932. An influential figure in Aboriginal affairs and an important custodian of Aboriginal culture, Uncle Sandy’s achievements are vast.
After a childhood spent on the banks of the Murray River building boats, collecting duck eggs and learning how to hunt and fish, in 1953 Uncle Sandy met and married the love of his life, Gwen Thorpe. Together they had five children and eventually settled in Tatura, near Shepparton, where they involved themselves in all aspects of community life and remain highly respected in the local area.
In addition to serving over 21 years as Chairperson on the VACL Board, Uncle Sandy’s achievements include: founder of the Shepparton Keeping Place; founder of the Rhumbalara Medical Co-Operative; working for Aboriginal Affairs; Chairman of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Arts Board of Australia Council; Vice Chairperson of the Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages and Culture (FATSILC) and Commissioner for the Aboriginal Development Commission. He was a central part of the Koorie Heritage Trust since its beginning and also maintained a long and vital link to Museum Victoria, most recently contributing to the First Peoples exhibition as a Yulendj member.
Uncle Sandy was also a talented musician who taught himself to play the pedal steel guitar, which he played for over 60 years, and travelled annually to Gympie in Queensland for the town’s renowned music muster.
In 1983, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia, in recognition of his service to Aboriginal arts and in 2012 was inducted into the Victorian Indigenous Honour Roll.
Speaking of his role here at the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages, our Executive Officer Paul Paton reflects, “Uncle Sandy was our Chairperson and to this day, he was our first and only Chairperson. My mum would often say when we would celebrate any of our successeses, “the best $50 ever spent” and what she was referring to was when VACL was born, back in 1994, Uncle Sandy used $50 of his own money to register the organisation, paving the way for language revival in Victoria. We are forever indebted to him for this.
Uncle Sandy showed a commitment rarely seen in that he always made himself available for meetings, events and would speak to anyone if they showed an interest. He would be the first to volunteer to travel around the country to support and promote languages with one of his frequent sayings that language has to be relevant.”
Uncle Sandy’s dedication, passion and enthusiasm for the revival of our languages at the community, state and national level has been inspirational.
We will miss his enthusiasm, his leadership, his stories, his warmth and respect to all of us. In our work and in our own lives we will remember him always.
“Language is the first thing in our culture that can become lost. We should not let it happen.” Uncle Sandy.
Rest in peace Uncle, your vision is in good hands.
Traditionally, Aboriginal languages were not written down. They have always been communicated through the cultural practices of dance, song, storytelling, ceremony, artistic expression and cultural knowledge. VACL's Creative Language Revival Projects draw on this rich tradition of embedded creativity in communication, education and learning. Creative language revival activities are framed within a model of Community Cultural Development (CCD), ensuring that knowledge is passed on in engaging ways which lead to cultural revitalisation and community strengthening.
VACL has developed a model for its process of facilitating community engagement and collaboration in the creative language revival process. Drawing on the expertise of artists, Aboriginal Elders and linguists, VACL uses creative approaches to facilitate Aboriginal language revival. VACL staff work collaboratively with artists, providing linguistic and cultural support. They provide advice and resources to develop, record and disseminate language through creative processes which integrate songs, stories, music, poetic text, visual arts and sounds of Country to which the languages belong.
VACL’s model of Creative Language Revival draws on an extensive network of Aboriginal linguists and community leaders as an Advisory Group which is accountable to the VACL Board. The Board’s membership comprises Aboriginal Elders, linguists and community representatives from across the State. Members of the Advisory Group develop the project briefs for special events and programs and seek Expressions of Interest through community networks. Creative works are selected and commissioned from artists and members of different communities work together in collaboration.
Projects are allocated Lead Artists, Linguists and Cultural Mentors from the Advisory Group and on-going support is provided to the Project Teams. The creative works are performed at special events and the outcomes of the projects’ language reclamation processes are documented in writing, audio-recordings, photographs, visual art and film. Where appropriate, the project outcomes from the developmental process become learning resources which support language revival work and cultural learning in the broader community. An on-going cycle of feedback and evaluation is facilitated throughout the process.
Students at Swan Hill Primary School are enjoying their third year learning Wemba Wemba language, taught by Wemba Wemba Elder Aunty Steph Charles and Koorie Educator Andrew Cameron.
Lessons to date have focused around the use of traditional language in a contemporary context through themes such as local birds, greetings, family members and body parts, taught through repetition, gesture, songs and memory games. Launched on Monday 15th February 2016, students have now created their own Wemba Wemba Language Program resource in the form of an interactive digital app, which contains word list categories accompanied by images and audio, in Wemba Wemba.
With the support of key Elders Aunty Steph Charles & Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir, Swan Hill Primary School Principal Janet Barnard, Koorie Educator Andrew Cameron, Community Linguist Vaso Elefsiniotis, Teacher Rachel Moloney and VACL Project Officer Emma Hutchinson, Grade 3 students learning Wemba Wemba undertook a series of workshops in which they created hundreds of drawings and photographs for the app, illustrating each language word.
The student’s creative use of language, art and technology has resulted in an interactive app with 13 word categories, including animals, body parts, counting, placenames, phrases, objects and songs.
This digital project is a partnership between Swan Hill Primary School, Traditional Owners, Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL), Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. (VAEAI) & Miromaa Aboriginal Language and Technology Centre. The development of these digital resources will support language reclamation and revitalisation activities in Victorian schools and communities.
The App is available now for FREE download at the App Store, for use on iPad and iPhone.
On Monday the 20th of April 2015, VACL launched three interactive digital storybooks at Thornbury Primary School, featuring Creation Stories of the Wurundjeri People in both Woi wurrung and English. As part of the project 15 Indigenous students from Thornbury Primary School were selected to create illustrations and record narratives for the digital storybooks. The student’s creative use of language, art and technology has enabled the telling of Balayang Wurrgarrabil-u (Why Bats are Black), Dulaiwurrung Mungka-nj-bulanj (How the Platypus Was Made) and Gurrborra Nguba-nj Ngabun Baanj (Why the Koala doesn’t Drink Water) to a global audience.
Click the icon above to download the apps.
The Apps are available now for download at the App Store, for use on iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch.
Woi wurrung Language Worker Mandy Nicholson is currently developing teacher resources which accompany these apps. Check back soon for updates, or contact the VACL office on 9600 3811 for more details.