“When Indigenous languages are lost, the door closes on them
[which is] a tragedy for all our cultural identities.”
— Tara June Winch, former ILF Ambassador
For the sixth year running, our Foundation was the “Charity of Choice” at Byron Bay Writers Festival, held in early August.
The program at Byron always includes several Indigenous authors, and this year festivalgoers were spoilt for choice. They flocked to sessions featuring Bruce Pascoe (Dark Emu & Young Dark Emu), former ILF Ambassador Tara June Winch (Swallow the Air, The Yield) and Bundjalung writer Melissa Lucashenko, whose most recent novel Too Much Lip has just won the prestigious Miles Franklin Award. Tony Birch (Shadowboxing, The White Girl) spoke in several popular sessions too, as did actor Uncle Jack Charles (No Sugar, Cleverman).
With 2019 being the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages, the focus of several sessions was on Australian Indigenous languages, and the ways in which culture and identity can be lost when a traditional language has few or no speakers.
The seats were all taken on Saturday morning for “Preserving Indigenous Languages” when Tara June Winch urged the audience to “discover the languages of the land you live on”.
“Culture is embedded in these languages,” she said.
Tara’s most recent novel, The Yield, weaves Wiradjuri words through its pages, and she acknowledged the substantial work of Stan Grant Senior in the preservation of this language.
She went on to explain how she’d love to see Indigenous languages taught to all Australian children as a second language from an early age, for instance in pre-schools and kindergartens, adding that this could be a simple means of “building a sense of pride”.
“Kids Big Day Out”, on the last day of the festival, saw our Lifetime Ambassador Alison Lester (Are We There Yet?, The Very Noisy Baby) and Bundjalung author and illustrator Bronwyn Bancroft (Clever Crow, Colours of Australia) treating hundreds of wildly enthusiastic local kids to some captivating yarns.
All the while, for three very busy days in a row, our team of dedicated volunteers (in their vibrant blue t-shirts!) fielded questions about the work we do in remote communities.
We’re thrilled that between donations from the ever-generous Northern Rivers literary community and sales of ILF-published books, we raised $8000 to fund our core programs. A huge thank you to everyone who made a donation, and to all who helped during the festival, including the wonderful staff at The Book Room who dedicated an entire corner of their marquee to our books.