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
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
On the 5th of October the fourth annual Tanderrum Ceremony took place at Federation Square. This ceremony is a traditional Eastern Kulin gathering comprising of 5 language groups, Woiwurrung (Wurundjeri), Boon wurrung, Taungurung, Dja Dja wurrung and Wathaurong. VACL assisted with extra support in language translations, pronunciation for each of the language groups, as well as the recorded voiceover component. VACL staff who are part of the Kulin Nation also participated in the ceremony.
In Tanderrum, the lore of the creator spirit Bunjil is acknowledged and the vibrant living culture of this country is celebrated. Tanderrum is significant as the ceremony wasn’t practiced in Melbourne between 1835 and 2013. Now every year the different groups of the Kulin nation meet to practise in the months leading up to the ceremony where the hours of work are well and truly evident in this outstanding event. Tanderrum attracts thousands of people to witness the rich linguistic and cultural knowledge of the people of the Kulin Nation in the combination of traditional songs, dances and ceremony.
To see more images from Tanderrum click here
To watch a video from the making of Tanderrum click here
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
The Festival of Pacific Arts (FoPA) is the world's largest gathering of Indigenous Pacific cultures bringing together cultural practitioners, artists, academics, policy makers and researchers. A delegation of 60 artists were selected to represent Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures at the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts. Last month, Paul Paton and Young Champion, Waka Waka woman Annalee Pope from First Languages Australia attended the Festival of Pacific Arts in Guam. Paul and Annalee represented Australia at the Festival’s Inaugural Indigenous Languages Conference where they discussed current work to support language revitalisation in Australia, particularly digital resources, the interactive language map, team and resource building projects. Their presentation was well received by other Pacific nations who found similarities in cultural contexts in their efforts to revitalise and maintain their languages. The festival was a good opportunity for knowledge sharing among different language groups throughout the Pacific. Paul commented that the keynote address by Dr Robert Underwood on his connection to language was one of the highlights of the festival. Dr Underwood is a politian and educator and the current President of the University of Guam.
The 12th festival was held in Guam from May 22 - June 4 and has been held every four years since 1972. The festival unites groups from 27 countries throughout the Pacific and aims to showcase arts and culture. The two weeks of festivities aim to enhance people’s understanding and appreciation for their Pacific neighbours. Hawaiʻi will be hosting the Festival of Pacific Arts (FoPA) in 2020.
Last month, Paul travelled to Sydney to participate in the three day Indigenous Digital Excellence Summit. Day 1 was packed full of presentations ranging from entrepreneurs who've utilised digital technology to achieve business success, academics spoke about the number of Indigenous people completing IT courses (which is very low) and what the future of jobs looks like and how we need to be prepared for this. Paul also spoke from the viewpoint of using digital excellence in revitalising culture demonstrating the iPad Apps which we developed last year.
The next two days were focused on constructing and working towards the development of a National Indigenous Digital Excellence Strategy. The strategy will focus on areas such as Employment, Health, Entrepreneurship, Education and Culture. Experts from the digital industry joined the group on the last day to provide their professional contributions with the closing address left to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to give priority to this important strategy and a commitment of future funding to see it realised.
As a bonus, Paul gave the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a brief tour of one of our Apps which were on display after the summit!
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.