April 26, 2007

hear hear

From ABC News website:


Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser says the Federal Government has ignored most of a major report on the removal of Indigenous Australians from their families.

In the lead up to next month's 10-year anniversary of the 'Bringing Them Home' report, Mr Fraser has attacked the Government's handling of Indigenous affairs, saying it has regressed.

Mr Fraser says neither the Federal Government nor the Opposition is showing any real interest in Aboriginal affairs.

He says more money needs to be spent on health, and education has gone backwards.

Mr Fraser, who is a co-patron of the Stolen Generations Alliance, says there is no stark point of difference between the two major parties on Aboriginal affairs.

He says the Federal Government should follow the Canadian Government's example.

"The Canadians have shown a very real interest in resolving these problems," he said.

"The kind of interest that hasn't come from Canberra, [from] either party.

"I don't really believe has come from either of the major parties in the state arena."

Former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) chair, Lowitja O'Donoghue, has supported Mr Fraser's stand.

She says this is the worst time in Aboriginal affairs history.

some bushman i am

The school started its bush trips again today, now that the wet seasons gone and the roads are dry (well.. dryish).

And so me n JJ gathered a few old people to go out bush and teach kids language and culture. We were a bit early so we stopped on the way and old DB started cutting wood to make boomerangs. I started helping, chopping off a branch with an axe, and next thing a bit of wood flew in my eye! It was very uncomfortable and I couldn't wash it out. By the time the other troopies came by with all the kids, I'd had enough and asked JJ to take me back to Ngukurr so I could go to the clinic. So they dropped me off and then went back to join the excursion. And me, well, standing in the waiting room, the bit of wood came out of my eye all by itself and so I walked home feeling relieved and rather silly.

April 20, 2007

I heart language revitalisation

Today we recorded my little banji reading a Marra story that goes like this:


Nana ninya manabarru.
Wagmin nana manabarru.
Wiji gana wa-jinja nana ninya.
Gana nyardin-gugi, wagmin.
Nana ninya manabarru, marluy gana ngalgi-wugi. Marluy. Guda.

These words were spoken by FR and we turned it into a little storybook that we have been using in the school program. A translation of the story is:


This is a buffalo.
The buffalo is black.
It eats grass.
It's skin is black.
The buffalo doesn't have a skin name (subsection). Nothing. That's all.

My little banji, JF, is about 12 and he read the story pretty well. It's pretty special for a 12 year old kid to be able to read that story in a language which is only spoken by a few old people.

Lots of credit to the Marra team here at Ngukurr who do a wonderful job. I heart language revitalisation.

April 19, 2007

Jidan kwait!

I learned another good word today (courtesy of AJ and old FR): Ngayab-gumi.

Ngayab-gumi is a Marra word meaning 'jidan kwait' in Kriol (lit: Sit down quiet) and it's a very useful word to use in the classroom for the Marra students who tend to get a bit restless (which is nearly all of them, nearly all of the time!).

The English translation of the Kriol phrase 'jidan kwait', isn't as straightforward as it seems. You'd be inclined to translate it literally as 'sit quietly', but I recently learned that you can be told to 'jandap en jidan kwait', which makes no sense when translated literally because you are telling someone to stand up and sit down quietly. But to 'jandap en jidan kwait' means more like 'stand up and be good/don't move/behave yourself/don't talk'. And so I think the best translation of 'jidan kwait' might be 'behave yourself'.

But anyway, I'll just embrace the Marra version, Ngayab-gumi.

April 09, 2007


This time of year there's only two ways to leave Ngukurr: either on a very small aeroplane or as shown - by a 30min/1hr boat ride up to Fomail (which is still 300kms from Katherine).

Which is what I did the other day. And now I'm having a lovely Easter in Katherine. I wonder if I'll get to drive back to Ngukurr?

April 02, 2007

yo manymak wäwa!

My wäwa, BW, rocks. Here a few reasons why. (He's the one in the middle. He gave me this photo today, it was taken last month while he was in Melbourne).

He likes to teach anyone and everyone his language Wägilak. He cleans the council office here everyday and he's been teaching the Accounts woman a few bits of Wägilak. She came up to me going 'B keeps teaching me his language but I don't know what he's saying!'. So I asked him what he's been teaching her and then I wrote it down for her, and she knows it now. So every morning when BW asks her Nhämirri nhe? (how are you?) she answers, Manymak (good).

BW has started committing himself to teaching Wägilak in our school classes and he's excellent. He has authority with the kids and is a natural gifted teacher. Today, I sat down with him and my gaburani (uncle) DW and they made a new song to teach the little kids (to the tune of london bridge is falling down):

Detuŋdja ŋay djirryuna djirryuna djirryuna
Detuŋdja ŋay djirryuna
Larruwala ŋay gapugu

(The buffalo went down, went down, went down)
(The buffalo went down)
(He was looking for water)

And after making the song, BW said the words that are magic to any linguists ears... 'yu garrim teip? ai wandi pudum la teip.' (Have you got a stereo? I want to record it).

BW is also the man who got me up dancing bunggul and showed me what to do.

Last Friday, BW got back from Melbourne. He was down there (with 2 other guys from here) performing at Federation square, with the Australian Art Orchestra, as part of the Swimming World Championships festival. He also performed at the opening of an Ngukurr Arts art exhibition. Coming home, he was even more determined to strengthen and maintain culture, dance and language here at Ngukurr. What a good man. Manymak wäwa!