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NAIDOC Week – Focus on Languages

Posted by Network SA on Monday, July 03, 2017

Why Languages Matter 
Can you imagine what it would mean to lose the ability to speak your language? A language is more than a collection of words and phrases. It describes us and is part of our being, who we are and how we understand the world in which we live.

Sometimes the best way to begin to understand a concept such as this is to hear personal stories. For example, many Adelaide readers will have experienced a Welcome to Country, spoken in Kaurna and English given by Kaurna man, Stephen Gadlabarti Goldsmith.
Have you ever thought about what this means to him and to other Aboriginal people? This article
describes how Stephen found identity through the re-emergence of his language. He is quoted as saying, "It gives me power and dignity ... it's the poetry in my soul."

Of approximately 250 languages spoken Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples up to the 19th century, less than half survive. People were forbidden to speak their languages and they were taken away from their homelands. The renewed interest in recovering and retaining the languages that are left is an important part of the healing process.

See below for links to more short articles and videos which will help you and your staff team to reflect on why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages matter. You could set aside time at a staff meeting to reflect on what these articles and videos mean to you.

Articles / websites about Australian Indigenous languages
  • This site is a useful starting point for information about Indigenous Australian languages 
  • Try this site for more background information – includes maps, charts and case studies (Languages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples – a Uniquely Australian Heritage) 
  • This article from 2015 cites examples of how non-indigenous language speakers gets things wrong when they assume that one language is the same as another 
  • First Languages Australia is dedicated to supporting preservation of Indigenous languages 
  • This site is an excellent source of information about South Australian languages
  • News item about work to support Barngala language in Port Lincoln
  • Read about the life’s work of Dr. Alitya Rigney on the Network SA website, who played an important role in the re-emergence of the Kaurna language of the Adelaide region. 


Children’s Picture Books
Network SA sells children’s picture books in the Kaurna and Kokatha languages.
  • Kaurna Warraarra Wonbawonnandi (Counting in Kaurna) – includes CD 
  • Kuranye Kaurnaarra (Colours in Kaurna) – includes CD 
  • Nunno Kaurnaarra (Body Parts in Kaurna) – includes CD 
  • Kuliny Muka (Little Nest Babies in Kokatha) 

They cost $20 each and can be purchased from our online shop.

More Information
The Mobile Language Team website is a good starting point for anyone wanting to learn about South Australian Indigenous languages. The site includes information about the many SA Aboriginal languages, protocols and useful links. Click here to view.

Maureen McGuire
Network SA
29 June 2017

Click here to download article



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