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!
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.
Paul Paton, Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir, Mathew Gardiner and Kris Eira travelled to Kalgoorlie for the 2016 WANALA Aboriginal Languages Conference, hosted by the Western and Northern Aboriginal Languages Alliance. The conference is for people in Aboriginal language centres, language projects, schools with Aboriginal language courses, Aboriginal language speakers and anyone involved in language work or who wishes to learn more about the work being undertaken on Aboriginal language preservation and use. The conference carried the theme of Building Resilience: Identity, intellect and the role of languages and was held at the Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, 16-18 June.
As part of the program, Kris presented our new holistic language planning tool Tyama-ngan, koong meerreeng watnanda, malayeetoo (We know, body and country together, long time). This comes in the form of a beautiful poster with the core concepts expressed through the artwork of Vicki Couzens, and an associated workshop. It is the most recent output of the Meeting Point - Language Typology Project. It expands on principles explored in Peetyawan weeyn, with more detail and breadth. Paul also gave a presentation on behalf of First Languages Australia.
Scroll down to watch a documentary film with conference participants
To learn more about WANALA click here
To purchase Tyama-ngan, koong meerreeng watnanda, malayeetoo poster click here
For more information on the Meeting Point - Language Typology Project click here
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.
The Melton West Primary School Language Program began in April 2016, with Mathew Gardiner teaching Woi wurrung, the language of the Wurundjeri people on whose land the school is situated. Prep students are currently engaged in a 10 week program where they are learning kinship & relationships, colour & counting, body parts and greeting phrases. Wurundjeri Educator Mathew Gardiner says the "first day the kids and I hit it off like a house on fire, also with the teachers I received a very warm welcome by all. I am very happy and proud". Both teachers and students are excited to have this new program up and running in the school.
To read more about the program at ABC News click here
Read about Mathew's success in the Star Weekly click here
Listen to Mathew on 774 ABC Melbourne
Photo: Wurundjeri man and Woi wurrung educator Mathew Gardiner with Melton West Primary School student Mary Jane
Photo curtesty of ABC Local, Clare Rawlinson
With the knowledge that language is the key tool to understanding and celebrating culture, it is natural that language provides the keystone to informing and inspiring creative projects and artistic expression. Our model for the creative revival of Aboriginal languages is a living example of Community Cultural Development practice, strengthening communities as well as language and culture. Our work in the field of creative language revival and cultural revitalisation through the Arts is leading edge and meets a growing need in the community. Creative Language Revival Projects contribute to cultural strengthening, health and well-being, educational opportunities and reconciliation.
VACL makes a significant contribution to the creative and cultural identity of Victoria by increasing the body of Aboriginal language and enhancing the cultural profile of Victoria. We achieve this through close partnerships with creative and cultural organisations such as Banmirra Arts Inc, Ilbijerri Theatre Company, The Wheeler Centre, Museum Victoria, Bunjilaka, Koorie Heritage Trust, Immigration Museum, Aboriginal Community Cooperatives, Melbourne Festival, Kiwa Digital, Miromaa Aboriginal Language and Technology Centre, Footscray Community Arts Centre , Sistagirl Productions, Reconciliation Victoria and State Library of Victoria drawing attention to the uniqueness of South-eastern Australian Aboriginal culture. Through these collaborations, we have participated in high profile creative events, festivals and programs such as The Light in Winter, Shearwater Festival, White Night, Next Wave, Blak and Bright and Festival of Pacific Arts.
Below are some highlights and examples of the many ways in which language underpins creative expression:
Gunditjmara/Gunai man Corey Theatre is a singer songwriter whose use of language extends him as a musician to be able to sing in traditional language. Corey has attended VACL workshops and is a strong believer in the power of language and its use in music. Corey continues to strengthen his knowledge through a collaborative journey of language revival and musical expression.
To hear some of Corey's music, visit Corey Theatre Music.
The Shearwater Short Tales program featured many musical collaborations including a song-writing and language revival project with self-selected Grades 5 and 6 students from Wonthaggi North Primary School, Kutcha Edwards and Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir, which lead to a ten-minute performance at the Shearwater Festival at Philip Island.
Learn more about the Shearwater Short Tales Creative Development Workshops held in 2015.
In addition to the promotion and publication of books in Victorian Aboriginal languages, VACL plays an ongoing role in Victoria's literary programs including holding seminars, workshops, presentations, readings and discussions. These have included a panel discussion at the Wheeler Centre, readings of digital storybook apps as part of the Blak and Bright: The Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival, translation work and reading for National Simultaneous Storytime and presentations on language revival at State Library Victoria.
The upcoming book 'Living Connections' by Lisa Kennedy is a visual narrative with Boonwurrung translations resulting from a partnership with VACL language worker and Boonwurrung Elder Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir. The book features Lisa's exquisite watercolour paintings alongside text in both English and Boonwurrung which details the journey of the Shearwater birds and connection to country.
The award-winning ‘Biyadin: The Shearwater Festival’ is held annually on Phillip Island. The Festival is auspiced by VACL in partnership with Bass Coast Shire Council and the Phillip Island Nature Park and has a strong focus on Aboriginal language revival and cultural regeneration. The Festival is preceded by an Education and Community Engagement Program in which Aboriginal Elders, linguists, artists and environmentalists work with children, teachers and community members to teach language and culture. A range of creative resources are developed from this work that are incorporated into the Festival and, where appropriate, are subsequently used for educational purposes.
VACL also works with leading contemporary arts festivals such as Next Wave Festival where we not only feature in the program of events hosting workshops in collaboration with artists on topics such as traditional cloak making, identity, returning to place and connecting to country through language, but have assisted the festival team in imbedding language in their guides, maps and programs through incorporating Aboriginal place names and locations.
VACL’s creative collaborations include public events such as ‘Tanderrum’, a ceremony performed at the Opening of the Melbourne Festival in Federation Square and the Official Opening of White Night in Melbourne at the Exhibition Building. These projects entailed extensive work with musicians, dancers, Elders and children from Aboriginal communities from the Kulin Nation facilitated by the Ilbijerri Theatre Company and with linguistic and creative leadership provided by VACL staff.
Watch a video of Tanderrum.
The Djirri Djirri Dance Group create dances which are contemporary interpretations of Wurundjeri culture with the essence of traditional dance/ceremony. Djirri Djirri is the Woi wurrung name for the Willy Wagtail. The group have many children who are encouraged to take on leadership roles through the use of language and knowledge exchange in dance creation. The group is led by VACL language worker Mandy Nicholson who has written many songs and chants in language which accompany these dances.
Watch the Djirri Djirri Dance Group perform Heartbeat of the Earth at the Shearwater Festival 2015.
VACL has played a leading role in creating digital language resources to support language learning in both communities and schools. Eighteen apps are now available on the VACL iTunes Store, all of which feature unique artwork created by local Aboriginal artists and in creative workshops with Primary and Secondary students across Victoria. These apps have generated a large interest in Victorian Aboriginal languages on a global platform, receiving wide coverage in the print media and radio and international recognition for Dulaiwurrung Mungka-nj-bulanj (How the Platypus Was Made) which won an award for excellence at the 2015 Digital Children’s Book Fair in Japan. This award led to an invitation to be part of a World Exhibition "Digital Ehon de Hirogaru Sekai Exhibition" at Children's Discovery Center Hachirabo (Tokyo, Shibuya).
To download VACL apps visit our iTunes Store.
Language worker, teacher, craftsman and visual artist and VACL Board Member Brendan Kennedy holds language as a central key to culture and creativity. With support from VACL, Brendan has published a collection of his songs and stories in Tati Tati, Mutti Mutti and Wadi Wadi languages. The publication titled Wangilatha Wangu Kiyawatha is a beautiful collection of Language songs and stories about the land, water, and animals of the Murray River people and Mallee people (Brendan's mother's people). The book is brimming with colour, illustrated with Brendan's digital artworks.
Watch a video of Brendan reading one of the stories from Wangilatha Wangu Kiyawatha.
Ngangu biik: Hear, Understand Country, produced by Wurundjeri visual artist Mandy Nicholson and Elder Aunty Diane Kerr, was displayed on the Signal screens in Northbank, Melbourne from August 14 to 22, 2015. This multi-media experience showcased Wurundjeri's living culture through Elder Aunty Diane Kerr. This journey is depicted through projection imagery and audio of her Mother Tongue, Woiwurrung. This event also celebrated the unveiling of her ceremonial walert-walert (possum skin cloak).
Watch a video documentation of this artwork here.
For thousands of years people from all around the world have looked to the night sky to connect with their creation stories, seasonal changes and navigation through land and the seas. Storytelling and the exchange of traditional cultural stories is a vehicle for cross-cultural understanding and celebration. Uncle Larry Walsh along with Koorie Community, Pacific Island Nations and members from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre put together a collection of galactic journeys which are part of an interactive sculpture 'Living Under the Stars' created by artist Keg De Souza. Imbedded in language, a selection of these stories are narrated by VACL staff Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir, Paul Paton and Mandy Nicholson.
Watch a video interpretation of 'Living Under the Stars'.
The 2015 film 'Wawi', Directed by Michael Portway is in Dja Dja Wurrung language with English subtitles. Language worker and previous VACL Board Member Harley Dunolly-Lee worked as a language consultant on the film and assisted with translations in collaboration with Emeritus Professor Barry Blake.
Watch a short extract of Wawi.
Nathan Maynard, a Trawlwoolway Aboriginal playwright and dancer from Tasmania, participated in the Shearwater Short Tales project at the Biyadin Shearwater Festival 2015. He incorporated language into his presentation and showed short films about mutton-birding on Big Dog Island, a practice in which his family had been engaged for many generations. Nathan also facilitated a theatre-making workshop at the Festival based on his play ‘The Season’ which he had presented at ‘Yellamundie’ the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Playwrighting Festival in Sydney. Nathan’s great-grandfather was Mannalaganna, chief of the Troowolway clan and of the whole of the North East Tasmanian indigenous peoples. Nathan was the recipient of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Artist of the Year Award in 2006 and 2013.
Corey Theatre source Corey Theatre Music
Living Connections Lisa Kennedy
Shearwater Festival Terry Melvin
Tanderrum Emma Hutchinson
Djirri Djirri Dance Group Rachel Ramberg
Dulaiwurrung Mungka-nj-bulanj Thornbury Primary School students
Bilgiri Gadini (Flood Waters) Brendan Kennedy
Living Under the Stars installation at Bunjilaka Emma Hutchinson
Wawi film still source Melbourne International Film Festival
Mutton Birding source Nathan Maynard
Staff and volunteers at VACL have been quietly working hard in the library over recent months, updating records and documenting resources in preparation for the library's launch into the virtual world.
The VACL Library is a unique and highly significant resource, featuring the most complete holdings of materials on Victorian Aboriginal languages in existence, and is the only place prioritising Community as well as historical and linguistic materials.
The VACL Library collection is now being shared online via Victorian Collections, making these important resources available to a wider audience and improving accessibility to our collection.
This project was lead and conceived by Jenny Gibson, who worked in partnership with Belinda Ensor and Cameron Auty, Co-Managers of Victorian Collections and volunteers Lea Bröenner, Eartha Collins and Amelia Marra, a Cultural Heritage student on placement from Deakin University. The collection will now go on to be linked with Trove.
VACL would like to thank and congratulate everyone who worked on this project which will further assist communities, groups, organisations and individuals to connect with Victorian Aboriginal language resources.
"Every item on Victoria Collections has a story to tell. Until now these objects have been hidden away in collections stores, libraries and exhibition spaces. This is an incredibly comprehensive and useful resource from a remarkable organisation, so it's very exciting for the collection to be shared online" said Belinda Ensor, Victorian Collections Co-Manager.
VACL's online collection can be found here
To learn more about VACL's library click here