NAIDOC Week (2 to 9 July), which stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, is held in the first full week of July. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and draw attention to the status and treatment of First Nations peoples. It originated with the Day of Mourning in 1938 on 26 January to protest celebrations of ‘150 years since 1788’.
Each year, celebrations are held around a different theme. This year, the theme is ‘Our languages matter’, focusing on the importance, resilience and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.
Language is inextricably linked to land and holds deep spiritual significance. It plays an essential role in connecting people to country, lore and culture.
1. There are over 250 distinct language groups across Australia
While some of these have been lost due to the impact of colonisation, many of the language groups on the AIATSIS Indigenous Language map of Australia are still in use today.
2. Languages are being reawakened in Sydney
Park signage throughout the city continues to be renewed to remind visitors that they are on Gadigal country. The signs feature Gadigal language ‘bujari gamarruwa’ meaning ‘good day’. This was guided by the local community along with the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council and linguist Professor Jakelin Troy.
The Sydney Languages by Professor Jakelin Troy is an informative resource about Sydney’s first languages. Professor Troy’s work draws on the journals of William Dawes who documented language shared with him by Aboriginal woman, Patyegarang.
3. ‘Warrane’ is the local name for Sydney Cove
Since 2002, a number of places in Sydney have been ‘dual named’ by the Geographical Names Board. This is to recognise the equal importance of Aboriginal and European place names. Here are some examples:
- Tumbalong / Darling Harbour
- Ta-Ra / Dawes Point
- Dubbagullee / Bennelong Point
For more, head to the Sydney Barani website.
4. Lots of great classes are working to keep languages alive
Joel Davison is a Gadigal and Dunghutti man who was involved in Sydney Festival language workshops earlier this year. He says, “I like to think that there are still plenty of embers left, sparks of knowledge. And if there’s one thing I learned from Sydney Festival, it’s that there’s plenty of kindling too. Many people in Sydney want to learn the language and learn about the culture. It’s now about ramping up efforts from just keeping these languages alive to revitalising them in a big way.
“Keep the conversation alive, do what you can to learn the language and about the culture. Good places to start are TAFE, Indigenous studies units for your electives if you’re at uni, and cultural tours.”