Victoria’s gender-neutral languages laws a ‘social experiment’

Director of the Foundations of Western Civilisations Program at the Institute of Public Affairs Dr Bella D’Abrera says Victoria’s new gender-neutral language policy is an example of the government’s “warped priorities”.

“It tells you everything you should know about the Andrews government which is currently focusing on policing the language of its public servants rather than worrying about the 500,000 unemployed Victorians,” she told Sky News.

Dr D’Abrera said the Victorian government was conducting a “vast social experiment” based more in policing than courtesy.

“These are exactly the warped priorities we’ve been expecting the Dan Andrews government to come up with.”

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Prisoners in Western Australia are being taught Aboriginal languages to aid rehabilitation

It’s early in the morning at Boronia Pre-release Centre for Women in the south of Perth, and prisoners dressed in grey and black uniforms are filing into a classroom.

Written on a whiteboard at the front of the classroom are the words moort, ngangk and koorlangka, from the Noongar language of Western Australia’s southwest, meaning ‘family’, ‘mother’ and ‘children’.

The centre, which prepares women for re-entry into the community, has been chosen as the trial site for the Western Australian government’s new Aboriginal Languages in Custody program. 

The program was launched earlier this month during NAIDOC Week, and the first class was held at the centre a week later.

Noongar woman Denise Smith-Ali is a senior linguist.

Aaron Fernandes/SBS News

“They learn about Noongar words that relate to kinship … they can tell stories or sing songs in-language that relate to their families,” senior linguist and Noongar woman Denise Smith-Ali, who runs the class, tells SBS News.

“At the same time, we look at how kinship structures work, being separated from family, and try to link that back together.” 

Any prisoners can take part in the five-week program, regardless of background, and different languages will be taught in other regions in partnership with local language centres when it is rolled out further, first to Hakea Prison in January 2021, and then across the state. 

This class of about 20 students are of all ages and will all soon be released after completing varying sentences.

Emily* is a Yamatji woman in her 20s, who will be released next year after serving nearly six months in prison. She is enthusiastic about being able to take part in the program. 

“Just learning your connections and your roots from where you came from and the changes that our Aboriginal people have been through,” she says.

About 20 students are taking part in the trial program.

About 20 students are taking part in the trial program.

Aaron Fernandes/SBS News

Ms Smith-Ali has researched the Noongar language for 20 years and been a qualified linguist for a decade. She has authored 58 books and worked with many senior elders across the 14 clans of the Noongar nation.

She says the Noongar program has been designed not just to teach a language, but to use culture to address intergenerational trauma. Many of the women at the centre have a history of trauma. 

“When they are out of prison later, they can teach their own individual families about how to do that research, which is a very strong connection to their own land and their own identity.” 

“They will also find out their totems, their heritage names. They will know the place names of where they come from.”

The course integrates language learning into the rehabilitation process.

The initial Noongar language course runs for five weeks.

Aaron Fernandes/SBS News

The Languages in Custody program has been created and delivered by the Perth-based Noongar Boodjar Language Cultural Aboriginal Corporation (NBLCAC).

“Language is your culture, it’s your identity. It’s your spiritual connection to country,” NBLCAC manager George Hayden says.

“We teach community members, and the ladies are seen as community members here in the prison, so it’s the first time for us to actually get into a prison and teach languages.”

George Hayden

George Hayden says those in prison are part of the community.

Aaron Fernandes/SBS News

Mr Hayden, a Ngadj Ndadji Noongar man, was raised on a reserve near the WA mid-west town of Merredin.

“When I go back home to country, I’ve got to speak language to my ancestors. That’s why I think language is important to all Indigenous people across this nation,” he tells the women in the Boronia class. 

“But for us in southwest WA, our language was taken away. Our elders weren’t allowed to speak our languages or practise culture because of past policies.

The program will expand to all WA prisons in 2021.

The program will expand to all WA prisons in 2021.

Aaron Fernandes/SBS News

WA Corrective Services Minister Fran Logan says the idea for the Aboriginal Languages in Custody program was first proposed by Kimberley MP and Gija woman Josie Farrer.

“She came to me and suggested that we have many Indigenous people locked up in Western Australia and a lot of them don’t know their language. Why don’t we use their time productively, as part of the rehabilitation process?” Mr Logan says.

“[It] is such a simple and obvious idea, but one that has never been tried.” 

After the idea was proposed, the state’s Department of Justice held stakeholder sessions with language centres and prisoners.

Rhodessa Krakouer helped to develop the program.

Rhodessa Krakouer helped to develop the program.

Aaron Fernandes/SBS News

Rhodessa Krakouer, a Noongar woman and projects directory with WA Corrective Services says: “Initially, it was about having conversations with the community … culture is really important, but at the heart of culture is language.”

“When a person learns the language of the lands they’re on, it’s powerful.” 

The program has been funded for two years at a cost of $300,000, with a pledge by the state government to provide ongoing funding for what it says is a first in Australia.

“This program will continue, it will exist, and hopefully, it will get the benefits for the individuals that we hope for,” Mr Logan says. 

*Not her real name

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The next generation is bringing Australia’s ancient languages into the future

Before colonisation, over 250 First Nations languages were spoken in Australia. Now, just over 100 are still in use and 90 per cent are considered “endangered”.

That is a problem for many of Australia’s Indigenous people, like Taribelang Elder Melinda Holden.

“Without your language, you’re nobody,” Ms Holden said.

“Your language describes your country and your culture. That’s why it’s so important for us.”

Ms Holden is one of a dozen committee members working for First Languages Australia, a national organisation working to reclaim and revive Indigenous languages across the country.

“We have to protect our languages … for a long time we weren’t allowed to speak our languages, and that’s how we’re in the predicament we’re in now,” she said.

Taribelang elder Melinda Holden is working to revive Indigenous languages across the country.(ABC Wide Bay: Johanna Marie)

Researchers from the University of Melbourne are also trying to tackle the issue, starting the 50 Words Project, which aims to record 50 everyday words in every Indigenous language possible.

The project has been running for a year and currently has around 65 First Nations languages recorded.

Researcher Rachel Nordlinger said the project is breathing new life into ancient languages, many of which have been dormant for decades.

“Indigenous languages are a really crucial part of Australia’s heritage … they’ve been the languages of this continent for more than 65,000 years,” Professor Nordlinger said.

The online audio library is linked to an interactive map which shows the country each language comes from.

Professor Rachel Nordlinger
Professor Rachel Nordlinger from the University of Melbourne.(Supplied: University of Melbourne)

Researchers hope the language library will be used as an education resource, and more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages can be embedded into the school curriculum.

“Obviously 50 words alone isn’t going to preserve a language,” Ms Nordlinger said.

“It’s just a tiny little snippet of a language, but all of Australia should be really proud and fascinated by these languages.”

Language is the first step

At the prestigious Adelaide boys school Prince Alfred College, recognising Indigenous culture has been a journey.

With only a dozen Indigenous students enrolled at the school, Headmaster Bradley Fenner said they had a way to go.

“We are seeing more and more people coming to us, because they know we do respect and celebrate Aboriginal culture.”

He said understanding language was an important part of that journey.

“Language is the vehicle by which culture is transmitted from generation to generation … it’s really important to get an understanding of it,” he said.

The school invited in Kaurna language expert Jack Buckskin to teach students about the language of the traditional landowners.

He then recorded a submission for the 50 Words Project on behalf of the Kaurna people.

Aboriginal Students Advisor Monica Magann said the school was trying to be proactive in recognising, promoting and respecting Indigenous culture.

“We don’t always get it right, and we’ve got a long way to go but I think we’ve made some really significant meaningful ground,” she said.

Next generation taking charge

Nathaniel Keeler and Melique Andrews are two of the school’s Indigenous students on the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) team.

Nathaniel Keeler and Melique Andrews sitting on a couch
Indigenous students Nathaniel Keeler and Melique Andrews.(ABC News)

They say the RAP team gives them a chance to share their culture with the wider school community.

“We have meetings and we get to talk about Aboriginal culture,” Melique said.

“I like it because it’s showing my culture and my family.”

The boys say the introduction of more of their culture into the school has been well-received by their peers.

“It’s good because all the boys are in it and sort of you can have a laugh but you know, you also get down to business,” Nathaniel said.

“Then you can really make a difference.”

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Learning languages – Why studying Chinese is in decline | Britain

“I LOVE CHINA,” declared Boris Johnson, then mayor of London, in 2013, exhorting British children, his own included, to study Mandarin. Seven years on, he is a lot less keen on China, and the vogue for studying Mandarin seems to be fading.

When Mr Johnson was declaring his Sinophilia, well-to-do parents saw Mandarin as a good investment in their children’s future. In 2015 Hatching Dragons (pictured), Britain’s first bilingual English-Mandarin nursery, opened its doors to 32 little linguists; it has since taught over 500 children, for around £1,881 a month per child. But Cennydd John, the nursery’s chief executive, laments that there is “almost no option” for children to continue their bilingual education once they leave at the age of five. Fewer than 3% of primary schools in England offer Mandarin.

Many independent schools followed the fashion: 24% of them offer Mandarin, compared with 4.4% in state schools. But finding a school that offers Mandarin is no longer the priority it was for parents three years ago, says Ralph Lucas, editor in chief of The Good Schools Guide. Part of the reason is that “the perception of China as a place where you would want your child to make a career has taken a severe knock”. Learning Mandarin to a useful level is difficult, and China “doesn’t seem like the big golden opportunity it was before”. Recent events, such as the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, further “take the gloss off” the idea of investing in a Chinese education.

That shift shows up in exam figures. In 2015, 3,099 students took a Chinese A-level and 3,710 took a GCSE. In 2019 those figures had dropped to 2,272 for A-level and 3,201 for GCSE, according to the Joint Council for Qualifications, an organisation which represents the eight largest national providers of qualifications.

Advocates of learning Mandarin say that a more complex geopolitical situation is exactly why children should be practising their tones. But those who have invested the hours (and the cash) don’t always reap the rewards. “The only real advantage of me speaking Chinese was having a much better understanding of how difficult it was for my Chinese colleagues to operate in English,” says Alex Wilson, who worked in public relations in Beijing and Shanghai. Graduates from the School of Oriental and African Studies can expect to be earning £27,000 five years after graduating if they studied Chinese, or £38,000 if they studied economics. Yun Zhen is studying for a Masters in Education at the University of Reading and hopes to be a Mandarin teacher. But “honestly, I don’t see many opportunities,” she says. Now she’s looking for teaching experience in “any subject”.

The difficulty of learning Mandarin will always attract academic kids and pushy parents. Mr John of Hatching Dragons notes that parents increasingly “see bilingual immersion for its cognitive benefits. For them, Chinese is (almost) secondary to the linguistic input”. The idea that Mandarin itself is a hot ticket is fading. Better to train the children in a computer-programming language. “Compared to how much more employable you can make yourself by learning something like Python, which you can learn in a few months,” according to Mr Wilson, “Mandarin seems like an inefficient use of resources.”

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Flying dragon, passing fashion”

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Before James Cook renamed them 250 years ago, these places along the east coast were known in ancient languages


August 22, 2020 05:22:59

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have always been here. They were here before European sea navigators came to this land.

Navigators such as Spaniard Luis Vaez de Torres, who in 1606 sailed through the Torres Strait Islands giving them the name they bear today, or Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon, who landed on the western side of Cape York Peninsula and charted its coastline in the same year.

Or William Dampier, the first Englishman to set foot on Australia in 1688 and whose name is still honoured in Western Australia.

And most importantly, before lieutenant James Cook, the first recorded European explorer to land on the east coast of Australia in 1770 — exactly 250 years ago this year.

On his voyage of the east coast, Cook would detail his interaction with Indigenous people, describing their physical appearance and consistently seeing smoke and fires.

He knew this continent was inhabited and wrote it himself.

In his voyage, he would rename over 120 locations and landforms.

But these places already had names and they had been used for tens of thousands of years.

Here are just a few of these placenames and their stories as told to the ABC by the traditional custodians, elders and community members of these locations along with the daily entries of Cook’s journal.

The following dates are the dates on which Cook, in his journal, renamed the locations and landmarks he saw in 1770.

Point Hicks

April 19

Rame Head

April 19

Cape Howe

April 20

Mount Dromedary

April 21

Known as Gulaga, the mother mountain to the Yuin people.

In his journal, Cook said this land was “inhabited” as he saw multiple fires.

“Saturday 21st winds southerly a gentle breeze and clear weather with which we coasted along shore to the northward. In the PM we saw the smook[sic] of fire in several places a certain sign that the country is inhabited.”

Go deeper: Read more about the first sighting of Cook’s Endeavour, as remembered by the Yuin people.

Cape Dromedary

April 21

Cook also saw Yuin people on a New South Wales south-coast beach and noted their dark skin.

“We steered along shore NNE having a gentle breeze at SW.”

“And were so near the shore as to distinguish several people upon the sea beach they appear’d[sic] to be of a very dark or black colour but whether this was the real colour of their skins or the clothes they might have on I know not.”

Batemans Bay

April 21

Point Upright

April 22

Pigeon House

April 22

Known as Balagn to the Budawang people, as told by Noel Butler.

Cape St George

April 24

Longnose point

April 25

Red Point

April 25

Again, Cook mentions sighting several fires during this time.

“Saw several smooks[sic] along shore before dark and two or three times afire in the night.”

Cape Solander

April 29

Cape Banks

April 29

Sutherland Point

May 1

Botany Bay

May 6

Known as Gamay/Kamay to the Gweagal and Bidjigal peoples of the Dharawal Eora nation.

On April 28, 1770, Cook wrote: “At this time we saw several people a shore four of whom where carrying a small boat or canoe which we imagined they were going to put into the water in order to come off to us but in this we were mistaken.”

He mentions the canoes “appeared not much unlike the small ones of New Zealand”.

On the 29th, he wrote:

“Saw as we came in on both points of the bay several of the natives and a few huts, men, women and children on the south shore abreast of the ship to which place I went in the boats in hopes of speaking with them accompanied by Mr Banks, Dr Solander and Tupaia”

“As we approached the shore they all made off except two men who seem’d[sic] resolved to oppose our landing …”

Go deeper: Read about what Dharawal and Gweagal descendants understand of the events that unfolded on the afternoon of April 29, 1770.

Tupaia was a Polynesian high priest and star navigator on board the Endeavour. He was from Raiatea, in the Society Islands.

Joseph Banks and Cook used him as cultural mediator or translator to Indigenous peoples in New Zealand and Australia.

Tupaia fell ill on the ship and died in November, 1770. As the Endeavour crew returned home to England hailed as heroes, his work was overlooked.

You can read more about Tupaia’s story here.

Cook continues to detail the encounter — from his point of view — firing at the Aboriginal people ashore.

“One of them took up a stone and threw at us which caused my firing a second musquet[sic] load with small shot and altho'[sic] some of the shot struck the man yet it had no other effect than to make him lay hold of a shield or target to defend himself.”

This bark shield pierced with a bullet hole, named the “Gweagal shield”, still sits in the British Museum today.

Go deeper: Read about the battle to return the Gweagal shield.

Port Jackson

May 6

On this day, as Cook names what is now known as Port Jackson, he mentions sighting huts and Gadigal people in the area.

“Some that we saw had their faces and bodies painted with a sort of white paint or pigment.”

He also recounts seeing them fishing in canoes and roasting their catch on a fire on board.

Broken Bay

May 7

Cape Three Points

May 7

Point Stephens and Port Stephens

May 11

On this day, Cook again saw fires and people. He was in Worimi country.

“We saw several smooks[sic] a little way in the country upon rise up from the flat land …”

Little Broughton Island (Outer Rock)

May 11

Cape Hawke

May 11

Three Brothers

May 12

There are many different versions of the Three Brothers story held by other traditional owners of the Birpai nation.

One of these Three Brothers stories is shared by Birpai elder Aunty Marian Holten, who says the three brothers are known as Dooragan (the eldest son), Mooragan (the middle son) and Booragan (the youngest son).

Go deeper: Read about the creation story of the Three Brothers.

Smoky Cape

May 13

Cook names this Smoky Cape after observing bellows of smoke from the headland.

“A point or headland on which were fires that caused a great quantity of smook[sic] which occasioned my giving it the name of smooky[sic] Cape.”

As translated by linguists at the Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative, there are two Gumbaynggirr names associated with Smoky Cape: “Guuwa Miirlarl,” a noun for “special place for fog” and “Jumbulbu, guuwa” meaning “fog or mist”.

Solitary Isles

May 15

According to the Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative: “Bunyun was a hero ancestor who drove his canoe into this island, creating a split.

“As a result, Bunyun drowned.”

Cape Byron

May 15

Arakwal Aboriginal corporation says the place we call Byron Bay is known as Cavanbah.

Walgun headland, known as Cape Byron, is the easternmost point of mainland Australia.”

Mount Warning

May 16

Is known as Mount Wollumbin.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife service consult with Aboriginal community representatives who are a part of the Wollumbin Consultative Group.

“The Wollumbin area has high cultural value for many Aboriginal groups in north-east New South Wales and south-east Queensland, including Nganduwal, Galibal, Gidhabul and Widjabal peoples,” the NSW Parks and Wildlife websites states.

Tweed Shire council also says: “Wollumbin has been a sacred place of great significance to the people of Bundjalung and other Aboriginal groups since time immemorial.

“Wollumbin, along with other significant sites in its surrounds, provides a traditional place of cultural law, initiation and spiritual education.”

Point Danger

May 16

Point Lookout

May 17

Glenda Nalder is a descendant of the Ngugi People of Mulgumpin (Moreton Island), and is a member of the Minjerribah Moorgumpin Elders in Council.

She says Point Lookout is knows as Mulumba (this is one spelling variation).

Quandamooka songman Josh Walker also tells the story of Mooloomba (another spelling variation) used to teach lore.

Moreton Bay

May 17

Cape Moreton

May 17

Ms Nalder says this is known as Gunemba.

Glass House Bay

17 May

Glass House Mountains

May 17

Mount Tibrogargan and Beerwah, the names of which are still used today, are significantly important to the Jinibara and Kabi Kabi peoples.

Double Island Point

May 18

Wide Bay

May 19

Indian Head

May 20

Sandy Cape

May 20

Break Sea Spit

May 21

Hervey Bay

May 21

Round Hill Head

May 23

Bustard Head

May 23

Bustard Bay/Seventeen Seventy

May 23

The Gooreng Gooreng people know this country as Gooragan (sandy loam country).

Cape Capricorn

May 25

Cape Manifold

May 27

Keppel Bay

May 27

Keppel Islands

May 27

Woppaburra elder Bob Muir explains the name for Great Keppel Island, known as Woppa.

“Woppaburra is our present spelling with ‘burra’ meaning people of and ‘Woppa’ the name of the island, Woppaburra meaning people of the island.”

Mr Muir says Woppaburra people have worked with the Queensland government to include the traditional names of the Keppel Islands on Google’s maps.

The small Islands are known as Konomie (North Keppel Island), Terimul (Corroboree Island,) Burye Burye (Humpy Island), Balaba (Middle Island), Mamalonbi (Miall Island) and Bankaboolare (Man and Wife Rocks), Onun (Outer Rocks) Arummi (Barren (first Lump) Island).

Two Brothers

May 27

Cape Townshend

May 28

Island Head

May 28

Hervey Islands

May 28

Shoal Water Bay

May 28

Thirsty Sound

May 30

Northumberland Islands

May 30

Pier Head

May 31

Broad Sound

June 1

Cape Palmerston

June 1

Cape Hillsborough

June 2

Again on this day, Cook writes “some few smooks[sic] were seen on the mainland”.

Slade Point

June 2

Cape Conway

June 3

Whitsunday’s Passage

June 4

In the Whitsunday’s, home of the Ngaro people, Cook sees an outrigger canoe.

“On a Sandy beach upon one of the Islands we saw two people and a Canoe with an outrigger that appeared to be both larger and differently built to any we have seen upon the coast.”

Cumberland Islands

June 4

Cape Gloucester

June 4

Holbourne Isle

June 4

Edgcumbe Bay

June 4

Cape Upstart

June 5

Cape Bowling Green

June 5

Cleveland Bay

June 6

Cape Cleveland

June 6

Magnetic Island

June 6

Palm Islands

June 7

Great Palm Island

June 8

Known as Bwgcolman to the Manbarra people.

Hillock Point

June 8

Rockingham Bay

June 8

Cape Sandwich

June 8

Family Islands

June 8

Dunk Isle

June 8

Double Point

June 8

Frankland Isles

June 9

Fitzroy Island

June 9

Known in the Gunggandji language as Gulnyjarubay.

Cape Grafton

June 9

Known as Girrigar in the Kunganghi language, as told by Yidinji woman Henrietta Mairre.

Girrigar is located close to the Aboriginal community of Yarrabah.

In his journal, Cook wrote: “In the night we saw several fires along shore and a little before noon some people.”

Green Island

June 10

Trinity Bay

June 10

The Yirrganydji traditional name is Bana Wangal, as told by Gavin Singleton, Project Manager of the Dawul Wuru Aboriginal Corporation.

Cape Tribulation

June 10

Hope Islands

June 13

Weary Bay

June 14

Boulder Reef

July 7

Cape Bedford

August 4

Is known as Dhiidharr, as told by Guugu Yimithirr woman Alberta Hornsby.

Endeavour River

August 4

Known as Waalumbal Birri to the Guugu Yimidhirr people. The river is life-giving and defines clan boundaries.

Three Isles

August 10

Cape Flattery

August 10

Point Lookout

August 11

Lizard Island

August 12

Is known as Dhiigurru, Ms Hornsby said, to the Dingaal people. Also spelled as Jiigurru.

Here, Cook writes: “The inhabitants of the main visit this island at some seasons of the year for we saw the ruins of several of their huts and heaps of shells.”

Eagle Island

August 12

Turtle Islands

August 12

Providential Channel

August 17

Cape Weymouth

August 17

Weymouth Bay

August 17

Forbes Islands

August 19

Bolt Head

August 19

Cape Grenville

August 19

Temple Bay

August 19

Sir Charles Hardy Islands

August 19

Home Islands/Cockburns Isles

August 19

Shelburne Bay

August 19

Bird Isles

August 20

Orford Ness

August 20

Cape York

August 21

Newcastle Bay

August 21

Possession Island

August 22

The island is used by Kaurareg, Gudang Yadhaykenu, Ankamuthi and other clan groups.

For the Ankamuthi and Gudang Yadhukenu it is known as Thunadha.

In the Kuarareg language, there are two different times within the year that the island is utilised, known as Bedanug and Tuidin.

Cape Cornwall

August 22

Booby Island

August 23

Prince Of Wales Island

August 23

Known as Muralug, this islands is the largest of the Torres Strait Islands.

Endeavour Strait

August 23

The National Museum has partnered with the ABC in an ABC iview series featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people sharing the original names of the places Captain Cook renamed on his voyage of the east coast.

Walking Together is taking a look at our nation’s reconciliation journey, where we’ve been and asks the question — where do we go next?

Join us as we listen, learn and share stories from across the country, that unpack the truth telling of our history and embrace the rich culture and language of Australia’s First People.











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