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
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
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
The Boon Wurrung word for the short-tailed shearwater is Biyadin. The bird is also known as Yolla, Muttonbird, Moonbird and Ardenna Tenuirostris. The shearwaters have deep cultural significance for the Boon Wurrung people, having brought the community together for thousands of years for feasts, gatherings and ceremonies, on what is now called Phillip Island.
The fourth Shearwater Festival was held on November 21st & 22nd, an annual creative, cultural and environmental event which brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members together to celebrate the return of the short-tailed shearwaters from their 15,000 kilometre migration. The shearwaters are celebrated as symbols of local and global interconnectedness.
This year's festival included a street parade, workshops, performances and guided walks and talks to the shearwater rookeries. The festival warmly welcomed members of refugee communities who now live in Australia, featuring a special concert 'Womin djeka Africa' (Welcome Africa) in which African and Indigenous performers collaborated in performance, art, music and song.
Preceding the festival is the Shearwater Education Program which is facilitated in local schools and includes visits from artists, musicians, environmentalists and Indigenous Elders. Linked to the festival and education program is the Cross-Cultural Message Exchange, in which artworks and messages are shared between artists, children and Indigenous Elders around the world. This year's festival featured Indigenous artists and community leaders from First Nations in Canada and the USA.
Scroll down to see images from this year's festival and a film titled 'Interwoven', concieved by Rachel Mounsey, commissioned by the Shearwater Festival and featuring poetry by Taungurung artist Mick Harding and Adnyamathanha Elder Uncle Dennis Seymour.
Last week on Wednesday September 2nd, Indigenous Literacy Day, Fitzroy Library visitors were treated to an Aboriginal Language Awareness Workshop presented by Wurundjeri woman and VACL Project Officer Mandy Nicholson. On a wet cold evening, more than 40 attendees enjoyed over an hour of learning more about Aboriginal Language in Victoria.
Mandy spoke about her own language journey, about links to culture and language, current language renewal projects and the state of language revival in Victoria, activities relevant to language training, the success of the Woi wurrung Language Program at Thornbury Primary School and the importance of multi-lingual education. The audience was then treated to a Woi wurrung language activity called 'aliens', followed by an extensive Q & A.
"Language was forcibly stopped and lucky we've got enough records that we can bring back our languages". - Mandy Nicholson
To read more about the Language Awareness Workshops offered by VACL click here
You can hear the full audio of the workshop here
VACL has collaborated with Brendan Kennedy from the Tati Tati Aboriginal Corporation in Robinvale to publish his songs and stories translated into traditional Tati Tati, Mutti Mutti and Wadi Wadi languages of North Western Victoria.
Brendan has written dozens of songs and stories, from which nine were chosen to be included in this book, sharing local stories and connecting to country.
"I was born on the flood grounds of the Murray River on my Ancestral lands in Tati Tati Country. I dedicate this book of language songs and stories to my mother's people, River people and Mallee people because these songs and stories are about their land, water and animals." - Brendan Kennedy
Please contact VACL for more information about this publication.
To see Brendan reading one of the stories from this book, check out the video link below.
To learn more about Brendan, you can view his profile on our board members page here.