The Torres Strait Islander language program in Queensland is being strengthened and re-designed to meet the challenge of cultural survival.
Language coordinator Kay Nettey
The process is being spearheaded by the Queensland Torres Strait Islander Language Consultative Committee, in conjunction with Magani Malu Kes, host organisation for the Queensland Torres Strait Islander language program.The elders who are the custodians of our language and culture, will play a key role in language maintenance.
There is general consensus that the maintenance of Torres Strait Islander languages, particularly for people who have moved from the Torres Strait to the mainland, and for their descendants, is perhaps the most important task in maintaining our culture.Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland make up seventy percent of our people in Australia.
Language maintenance and the promotion of language and culture are key priorities of mainland Torres Strait Islanders, as they are fundamental to our identity as a separate community of Indigenous people in Australia. If our language disappears, then Torres Strait culture will have difficulty surviving.
The Language Initiatives Program
Right: Kola LagawYa and Merium Mir language students in their Kebi Kazil dance costumes; Front row left to right: Suede Chin fat; Chris Gela; Jacob Pilot. Back row: Naz Pilot;Jahla Gela;Teneeka Clemments; Micha Gela; Chauntey Nettey.
Involvement with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Initiatives Program (ATS1LIP), dates back to 1992 when the Ladies Arts and Crafts,Torres Strait Islander Corporation, based in Townsville, was funded to maintain Torres Strait Islander culture, by promoting arts and crafts and language. Since 1997, Magani Malu Kes, a resource centre for Torres Strait Islanders in the Townsville region, and long time advocate of Torres Strait Islander interests, both on the mainland and in the Torres Strait, has been the sponsor organisation of the program.
The administration of the languages Program in this area has recently been reviewed, with the outcomes being implemented according to restructured guidelines.
The Queensland Torres Strait Islander Language Consultative Committee will aim for a fair distribution of language resources across the three language groups, and an equitable sharing of resources across the five identified regions in Queensland. It will aim to develop language resources for use by all Torres Strait Islander people, wherever they live.
The strategies involve teaching language through living cultural activities and the development of a library of existing story books, hymn books, gospels and liturgy already in language, reflecting the deep spirituality of Torres Strait Islander people.
Magani Malu Kes will provide a resource centre for language.
Community education will form a core component of the strategy. It will seek to overcome any feelings of shame people have about speaking language in public, educate parents who cannot speak language and encourage the use of language in the home.
Magani Malu Kes will review the strategic plan to cater for changing needs, ideas and philosophies.This will be linked to an annual planning cycle, coordinated by Magani Malu Kes in conjunction with the Language Committee.
New Language Consultative Committee.
Members of the Queensland Torres Strait Committee, from left to right: Ted Reuben, Benny Benny father, and Walter Waria. Mr
Following the recent ATS1C review, a Queensland Torres Strait Islander Language Consultative Committee has been established Members of the Queensland Torres Strait Committee, from left to right: Ted Reuben, Benny Benny father, and Walter Waria. Mr to oversee the program. Magani Malu Kes employs a part-time language coordinator, to manage the program on a day to day basis.
The Language Maintenance Consultative Committee, which is elected by Torres Strait Islanders in five regional 'electorates', advises the board of Magani Malu Kes on the operation of the program. Elections have resulted in the following people being appointed:
Ted Reuben (Eastern) Walter Waria (Western)
Benny Benny-Father (Eastern) Tetom Ketchell (Western)
Jack Gela (Eastern) Lilly Tabuai (Western)
Elemo Tapim (Eastern) Raba Solomon (Western)
The Cairns election is not completed.
A significant activity under the program is the preparation of a comprehensive language kit, incorporating a compact disc and supporting education materials. This has been a major undertaking involving a number of Torres Strait Islander organisations.
The kit should be completed by December this year for national distribution to Torres Strait Islander organisations and education authorities.
This is the first time a project of this nature has been developed for Torres Strait Islander
The CD Rom is being developed by the University of Technology in Melbourne, following a national selection process. The kit, which includes a video, work book and audio tapes is being made available in three Torres Strait Islander languages — Miriam Mir, Kala LagawYa, and Kriolanguage.
Apart from Magani Malu Kes, organisations in Brisbane, Rockhampton, Mackay,Townsville and Cairns are assisting in the project by undertaking specific sponsorship tasks.
CALC Multimedia, which is producing the kit, has established working relationships with linguists and language experts to ensure authenticity of the languages.
The committee and Magani Malu Kes are confident that with the new arrangements in place and a major project coming to fruition, greater emphasis will be given to the maintenance and promotion of Torres Strait Islander languages as a fundamental aspect of ensuring recognition of our distinctive identity.
Islander Language Consultative
Mrs Maureen Newie,Tetom Ketchell, Ricky Guivarra was absent from the photo