Voices from Across the Nation
In late August, as UNESCO’s International Year of Indigenous Languages continued to be celebrated around the world, some of our team headed to Darwin for the 7th PULiiMA Indigenous Languages and Technology Conference. This biennial event brings together people from diverse backgrounds and work environments who share the common aim of celebrating the traditional languages of their country.
Program Director Tina Raye and Program Manager Leonie Short were joined at the conference by our newest staff member, our community Book Buzz consultant Josie Lardy, an early childhood teacher who is based in Jilkminggan, near Katherine, NT.
In the Awabakal language, traditionally spoken in the region around Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Lower Hunter in NSW, PULiiMA means “making voice”. And from all reports, not only many voices were heard but also significant connections made over the several days of the conference.
“Lots of people were really excited to hear of the work we do, especially our Community Literacy Projects,” says Leonie.
In between attending conference sessions, Tina, Leonie and Josie staffed the ILF stand they’d set up. On display were copies of the many books in language we’ve worked with communities to produce, including I Saw We Saw, written in Yolgnu Matha and launched recently at the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land, and the runaway bestseller Moli det Bigibigi (Molly the Pig), a picture book in Binjari kriol. Translations into Australian Indigenous languages of such well-loved picture books as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where’s Spot? were also much perused by conference delegates.
Leonie says a highlight for all three of our team was the Women in Language Day, which was set aside to acknowledge and celebrate “the unique and special role our women play in maintaining, transmitting and promoting our languages and culture.” Our Board Director and Community Represenative, Leitha Assan was one of the Spokespeople for the day.
“It was particularly empowering,” Leonie says, “and really showcased just how passionate we are about preserving our languages, and the powerful role women in communities play in this. And the role elder women especially play is very strong, very important. We need to be thankful to them.”
Since the conference, Tina and Leonie have been fielding countless enquiries from other conference delegates keen to know more about the work our Foundation does in remote communities, and especially in regard to publishing books in Indigenous languages.
“It’s made me realise once again just how important community consultation is in getting things right [with our language and literacy projects]. And the strength there is in communities, and in being and working together.”
For Leonie, another important takeaway message was that it seems inevitable that 21st century technology will likely play a big part in any ongoing and future language preservation and revitalisation programs.
“There’s an app in New Zealand where you just take a photo of something and it tells you the word in Maori!”
Expanded horizons, a sense of excitement about what’s in store, the making of new community connections and above all, perhaps, the thrill of hearing so many First Nations voices!
- Posted 04 September, 2019