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
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.
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
The Digital Children's Book Fair is an international event in Japan celebrating the best digital children's books from around the world. Authors, illustrators, app developers and distributors were brought together at the end of August to select and award stories targeted at children made as ebooks, apps and other formats. The international event is the first of its kind focused on digital publishing for children.
The Wurundjeri Creation Story called Dulaiwurrung Mungka-nj-bulanj (How the Platypus was Made) received an award for excellence in the Digital Children's Book Fair. Congratulations to Thornbury Primary School and Kiwa Digital who worked in collaboration with VACL on this project.
In April 2015 VACL launched three interactive digital storybooks featuring Creation Stories of the Wurundjeri People in both Woiwurrung and English; Balayang Wurrgarrabil-ut (Why Bats are Black), Gurrborra Nguba-nj Ngabun Baanj (Why the Koala Doesn't Drink Water) and Dulaiwurrung Mungka-nj-bulanj (how the Platypus Was Made).
To download the story in the app store by click here
To learn more about this project click here
To read more about the Digital Children's Book Fair click here
Last month VACL and the Yalka Lotpja group gathered together in a Nganhuk Lotjba or 'show and tell' of Languages.
The Manma Yepanyuk day ('to make nets together' - 'Network') is intended as a coming together and sharing of Languages from across Victoria. This year the day was headed by Aunty Sharon Atkinson, from the Yalka Yotpja group, who hopes to encourage people to 'use it – or lose it'.
A fantastic range of Languages were shared on the day in various ways including poetry, nursery rhymes, creation stories, word games, sign language, conversation, contemporary songs and the national anthem.
A selection of recordings are showcased below and on our Vimeo page, make sure you follow the links and check them out.
More videos can be found at https://vimeo.com/vacl
The First Peoples exhibition at Melbourne Museum won global recognition by taking out top honours in the American Alliance of Museums' Excellence in Exhibition Competition.
‘First Peoples’ is the largest exhibition to focus on Aboriginal Victoria, telling the story of over 40 Aboriginal language groups.
“What makes this exhibition stand out is the way in which the Museum has worked with Aboriginal communities from across Victoria and beyond to create a truly memorable experience” said Museum Victoria’s CEO Dr Patrick Greene.
VACL is honoured to have been heavily involved in the redevelopment of this permanent exhibition space at the Bunjilaka Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum.
To read more about the award, click here
To learn more about First Peoples at Bunjilaka, click here
The Hon Heidi Victoria MP, Minister for the Arts, invites you to celebrate at the launch of a new publication of Aboriginal Creation Stories of Victoria Nyernila: Listen Continuously.
Following the success of the Kulin Creation Stories Booklet published in collaboration with Arts Victoria, we have extended this project and are pleased to announce the publication of 'Nyernila, Listen Continuously: Aboriginal Creation Stories of Victoria'. Nyernila brings together stories of creation and Aboriginal life from Koorie communities across Victoria, capturing over 18 language groups.
"Language connects to spirit and the land. Languages uphold and reinforce Indigenous world-views held by previous generations. Reviving and maintaining language is core to reviving cultural and spiritual practices. Aboriginal knowledge is a resource to everyone and this publication provides an insight into the diversity and depth of Aboriginal people's connections to the land." Paul Paton, Executive Officer, Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages
"Our stories are our Law. They are important learning and teaching for our People. They do not sit in isolation in a single telling. They are accompanied by song, dance and visual communications; in sand drawings, ceremonial objects and body adornment, rituals and performance. Our stories have come from 'wanggatung-waliyt' - long, long ago - and remain ever-present through into the future." Vicki Couzens, Project Co-ordinator, Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages
Contact us at VACL to find out how to get your copy, or download a digital version through Arts Victoria by clicking here.
VACL Executive Officer Paul Paton was a guest speaker at Melbourne Mueseum’s 2013 Knowledge Week program. He discussed VACL’s close ties with Indigenous communities and the expert team at Bunjilaka Cultural Centre, and how these conversations have been so integral to the success of the First People’s exhibition. Paul also explained the role of languages in sustaining communities and how the language revival process is gathering momentum in Victoria.