“Our language is like a pearl inside a shell. The shell is like the people that carry the language. If our language is taken away, then that would be like a pearl that is gone. We would be like an empty oyster shell.” — Yurranydjil Dhurrkay, Galiwin’ku, North East Arnhem Land
“The loss of language symbolises the loss of culture. For us young mob and our future generations, the survival and revival of our languages is imperative to our very being.”
More than three-quarters of Indigenous Australian languages are already lost, and the survival of almost all the remaining languages are under extreme threat. The loss of language symbolises the loss of culture. For us young mob and our future generations, the survival and revival of our languages is imperative to our very being. Language connects us to culture and country; it helps form our identity. If our language is not known, then our connection to our ancestors and the Dreaming is lost.
“Our Languages Matter” is this year’s NAIDOC week theme. NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week can be traced back to the Australia Day in 1938, when one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world—a march through the streets of Sydney—protested the status and treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. In 1955, the event date moved to July, so it could be a time not just for protest, but also of celebration. In 1974, the day turned into a week, and so, this week we celebrate language; we celebrate the role of language in cultural identity and are reminded of the responsibility that all Australians have in maintaining and preserving these traditional languages.
This year, the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages identifies thirty-eight languages and eleven language families in Victoria. With Lindsay being founded on Wurundjeri land, we thought we’d take this opportunity to share with you some key words and phrases spoken by two of the tribes within the Kulin nation: Boon Wurrung and Woi Wurrung.
Marramb-ik (what is your name?)
Weelam-ik (where do you live?)
Tarnuk-ut baany (water in the billy/invitation to share food and stories)
Djirri-djirri (willy wagtail/a little black dancing bird)
This piece was written in consultation with Boonwurrung Language Worker and Elder, Aunty Fay Stuart-Muir. These drawings are the artist’s own interpretations of these words and do not reference Indigenous symbols.
Lindsay acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nations where the production of this piece took place. We pay respect to elders—past, present and emerging—and acknowledge that this always was and always will be Aboriginal land and that sovereignty for this land was never ceded.