April 12, 2012

That *is* the point...

Wow. More great stuff coming out of the national Inquiry into Language Learning in Indigenous Communities. The inquiry committee has just been to Adelaide and it must have been great. I just read through most of the transcript and particulary loved this bit where the Member for Durack (WA), Barry Haase, challenged Kaurna speaker Dr Alitya Rigney about why government funds should spent on reviving Aboriginal languages. She stood up to him very well. More than very well...
Mr HAASE: ... I am trying to wrestle with your concept that the federal taxpayers should make further contribution to the teaching of the language which is—in your own words, but not the same words—almost dead, and you are now resurrecting it. I am trying to find a reason other than an emotional reason, which is important, an artistic reason, which is important, and a cultural reason for the taxpayers of Australia funding this. What is the other reason that would justify the federal government cutting funding from an area that is currently being funded to place additional funds into teaching a language that is all but dead and spoken by just one area of Indigenous Australians?

Dr Rigney: My answer to you, Barry, would be: you pay the rent on this country that you stole from us, and then we would not have to go cap in hand to you every time that we needed funds.

Mr HAASE: That is not the point, if I may.

Dr Rigney: That is the point because the invasion of this country meant that my culture and my language and my commitment to Aboriginal issues was annihilated, was deleted, was eroded. So, for people who invaded some other country, there needs to be a payback system. There needs to be something in place that will not allow the people who owned the country before to have to go cap in hand all the time to ask for money. We would have our own money and we would be able to determine where it goes. That is what I think. I was a taxpayer too, a big taxpayer when I was a principal. Therefore, maybe my taxes should be paid to the Aboriginal committee. There should be some sort of 'pay the rent' in this country for the first nation's people so that we would not be poor citizens and we would be able to do the things that we would like to do for our communities.

The full transcript of the Adelaide hearing can be found here and is well worth a read. Many strong and deadly language workers and linguists spoke to the committee and spoke very well.

I just wish the Hansard would transcribe the bits where people spoke in their language though. I find it insulting and embarassing when they don't. The whole inquiry is about valuing Aboriginal languages more but they can't make the appropriate symbolic gesture of transcribing the various languages that people have spoken to them throughout the hearings? At the very least, they could always make sure that the name of the language spoken is mentioned in the Hansard...

April 05, 2012


While staying at the Language Centre on my last trip to Ngukurr, I was visited daily by Bluey. Bluey is a young buffalo that has been brought up by a family in Ngukurr who live down the road from the Language Centre. Everyday, Bluey wanders the street, eating grass. It freaks me out. It is a very big animal to be in such close proximity to, but more than that, in and around Ngukurr, buffalo are animals to be feared and avoided at all costs (unless you're killing one). So it's a bit disconcerting to all of a sudden have a friendly one around.

I was working with AD at the Language Centre one afternoon when Bluey came for a visit. AD fed him a couple of gingernut biscuits and then I couldn't resist documenting the occasion on my phone:

Although it was completely unplanned, I like this little recording. It's a nice example of spontaneous conversational and entertaining Kriol. Here's a transcript:
Juy! Yu gu na la kemp, no daga. Najing
Glenda jeya luuuuuuk!!! Glenda!!
Main gagu iya!
Minbala gagu bin kaman iya la im gagu iya.
Baitim im!
Ai bin regen wanbala garrwiri iya, gardi, tubala, gardi
Bluwi! Yu luk Glenda garri witbik tharrai luuuu, la kemp.
Baba, im gin galima iya. Mi dali yu. Imin meigim mami ting dijan iya, gidap-
And here's a translation:
Scram! Go now, home, there's no food. Nothing.
Glenda is there, see!? Glenda!
My grandson is here! (the buffalo is AD and my 'grandson')
Our grandson came here to his grandfather here.
(To the dogs): Bite him!
I thought there was one dog here, geez, there are two, goodness.
(Back to Bluey): Bluey! Look Glenda has weetbix over there, see, at home.
(To me): Brother, he can climp up here. I'm telling you. He made mum whatchamacalit, he did, get up-
If you're after more info, I'll go through some of the content of this recording to show some of the interesting things going on. A lot of people don't realise how complex Kriol can be so I thought I'd try and illustrate: