Restoring language is central to the cultural identity and well-being of indigenous peoples

Restoring language is central to the cultural identity and well-being of indigenous peoples

A new community partnership of the University of New South Wales in Sydney will support the revitalization of the Darwal language within the La Perouse Indigenous community.

partnership between Gujaga مؤسسة Foundation The University of New South Wales will use archival resources to describe the language and implement language projects in collaboration with the Darwal language knowledge holders and the Dharwal Sheikhs. It will help expand the use of the indigenous language across the Dharwal State and support the community’s rich cultural heritage.

The Gujaga Foundation (Gujaga) is the highest organization for linguistic, cultural and research activities within the La Perouse Indigenous community. It works with wise men, leading scholars and academics to foster a strong societal identity.

Ray Ingre, President of the Gujaga Foundation, says that revitalizing the language, with its connections to state, spirituality and kinship, is integral to improving the well-being of indigenous people.

“Spirituality is the core of who we are on many levels. It really connects us to all things within our country. And language for us facilitates that connection.”

Mr. Ingrey will work with Dr. Claire Hilla linguist from the University of New South Wales of Art, Design and Architecture specializing in Australian languages, and Associate Professor Kevin Lowea Gubbi Gubbi man and an expert on indigenous language policy and school curriculum implementation.

Dr. Hill investigates the interaction between language, cognition, and culture, and collaborates with communities to translate this research into practical language documentation and language activation products.

“When you hear people talk about the grief of losing a language… then you work on languages ​​and discover how much connotations – word meanings and other interactive aspects – express important cultural perspectives and cultural knowledge… the value in revitalizing these languages ​​is self-evident. It’s not necessary for these societies Not only, but also for the whole of Australia.

Capacity building around language also increases self-esteem and strengthens cultural identity in Indigenous communities, A / Prof. Lowe says.

“Our research in education has clearly identified that when Indigenous children have access to high-quality language and cultural programs, it actually resonates with children’s sense of identity and belonging in schools and their communities,” says UNSW Indigenous Fellow Scientia. He says this has long-term benefits for the individual and society.

Reclaiming today’s language for future generations

The State of Darwall extends from Sydney Harbor to Shoalhaven, where the Aboriginal community of La Perouse was established as a permanent Aboriginal settlement in 1883 by actions of the NSW Aboriginal Protection Council.

Aborigines from coastal areas bordering Sydney were forcibly housed in the mission as part of state government policies across Australia. Communities were tightly controlled, with indigenous peoples forbidden to practice the language and culture.

Today, the community still has families with ancient and unbroken roots of the Sydney coast. Ingri says the revitalization of the Darwal language means that this cultural knowledge will be passed on to future generations.

The partnership will identify best practices for language learning in activation contexts. You will build on the strengths of the existing Gujaga language program for adults and children.

Gujaga has been running a semi-immersion language program through the Gujaga Early Childhood Education Center for nearly 20 years, and the Dharawal language is included in the center’s daily activities.

Mr. Ray Ingrey, President of the Gujaga Foundation. Photo: Rob Hockey.

“We have both Aboriginal and non-Indigenous children who have access to our services,” Mr. Ingri says. “So Aboriginal children learn about their cultural affiliation in the world we live in, and other children, get unique insight into the oldest living culture in the world.”

The project will assess the children’s language levels as they leave the center and study how best to maintain this early language learning. Focus groups will be organized to identify outcomes that are meaningful to the community.

The team will gauge community interest by partnering with local primary and secondary schools to explore the value of a language program that follows children from early childhood to achieve fluency by the end of primary school. Ingri says this would allow career development to take priority in later years of schooling.

Read more: Bridging the Other Gap: Instilling Indigenous Knowledge in the Hearts and Minds of Young People

The partnership will also support opportunities for language students in later years to conduct collaborative research projects with the community. Students will submit their language expertise to the language programme, under the supervision of Mr. Ingri and under the supervision of Dr. Hill, analyze recordings, conduct literature reviews and develop language resources that can be given back to the community.

“It will be great hands-on work experience with a community organization, putting the skills they have developed through their degree to work and an understanding of real-world issues in running a community language program,” Dr. Hill says. “Going from brain space to real space – it’s a powerful moment to build that into someone’s degree experience.”

The community recognizes that having this ongoing language support is important to the continued reform of Darwal’s language, says Mr. Ingri. “[Also] Some of our kids participate in [language] Training and starting to wonder how they can become linguists and so we wanted to… create those pathways with the University of New South Wales.”

The rich challenge of indigenous multilingualism

Dr. Hill says Aboriginal languages ​​are rich in linguistic diversity, adding to their value but also the challenge of preserving them. While New Zealand has one heritage language, Australia has 28 distinct language families and at least 250 distinct language countries. She says finding the resources needed to service this is a challenge.

“Ninety-four percent of Europe is made up of one language family, so Australia has 28 times more language diversity than the entirety of Europe,” says Dr. Hill. There is also a lot of new linguistic diversity emerging in creoles and contact languages ​​— languages ​​that blend English with languages ​​of local heritage, she says.

Some First Nations children come to school speaking an indigenous language. Then they have the experience of learning English as a second language, where they don’t speak standard Australian English – they have limited access [to it] Then after that they get their education in it and learn it at the same time.”

“This has implications for the experience of educating that child and its effects on employment, engagement with the world… all the things we want for everyone in Australia.

Daraaal language teacher training

The revitalization of Indigenous languages ​​is key to Indigenous cultural identity and well-being. Photo: Rob Hockey.

“We need to better understand the local language experience children bring into the classroom and how children acquire languages ​​in different ways for different uses, such as formal education or community language activation.”

By supporting communities to develop language materials and resources, research can facilitate community benefits beyond simply revitalizing language, says A/Prof. Louie.

“If a child comes out of a language program, and masters – to the best of their ability – the language, it has multiple effects,” he says. “On the student in the short term – in his engagement with the school – but also in the long term and building resilience within the whole community.”

This partnership is all about investing in changing the real world in the long run, says the A/Professor. Louie. “[It aims] To improve communities’ abilities to step back and create space for themselves, not only aspire to language and culture, but realize it, he says.

Ingri says Gujaga is committed to developing strong networks to benefit the community in the future. “Our challenge is to grow and continue to support our families. As Great Uncle Gumbayngirr Elder Uncle Ken Walker said, “It’s a long road to hope.” … It is a long journey but it is comforting to hear ferrets spoken in our community, to hear children sing nursery rhymes in the language and greet each other in the language.”

Read more: Indigenous language can help solve complex AI problems

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