PALAWA KARNI PROGRAM RESEARCH UNIT TASMANIAN ABORIGINAL CENTRE PDF Print E-mail
Palawa Karni is the language revival program run by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, based in Hobart, Tasmania. 'Palawa' is our name for ourselves, Tasmanian Aborigines, and 'karni' is our word for 'talking'. In the Research Unit we are working on the longest and possibly slowest stage of the revival process. We are retrieving language from all possible sources, developing methods for researching and analysing that material and reviewing reconstruction methods we've already used. There are almost thirty different sources of vocabulary and grammar recorded for our languages, mostly written - with a number of different versions of some of these, and some oral. There have also been lots of commentaries and analyses done on our languages from last century to the present day. All of this work has been done by white people. Now for the first time, Aboriginal people from our own community are collecting all that material together and developing the research andlinguistic methods to collate, study, analyse and document it.

Through training and experience we are developing the competence and confidence to make recommendations to our community on suitable principles, practices and options we can use for further reconstruction of vocabulary and grammar. Every training session and research task is fully documented so we can use all this material to create instruction manuals to be used by other language workers, and later, for teaching our community.

There are four language workers in the Palawa Karni Research Unit. Gaye Brown, has been working with the program since 1993 and is a FATSIL delegate. Gaye has been involved in workshop- ping language reconstruction methods with among others. Terry Crowley, a linguist who has produced significant work with our languages. Gaye went on to apply these principles to reconstruct words and phrases for community use.

Over time Gaye has developed a very critical approach to her work. After spending a further five months building on her technical knowledge, she conducted a review of the methods and principles used in the past to reconstruct words. Gaye has just finished a report identifying and explaining the sound and spelling system adopted for Palawa. Her report includes recommendations about future language use, and possible changes that should be made to methods of reconstruction. Gaye is now editing the report. It will eventually be the basis of community consultation and instruction manuals.

Sally Clark has also been with the program since 1993, promoting language awareness in the community and working with Gaye on the early reconstructions. Sally has worked in the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre for most of her working life and has only just returned to Palawa Karni after maternity leave.

Jodi Haines is our newest worker. She has trained as a teacher in physical education and has represented Tasmania and the ACT in hockey and running. As well as previous work as a radio journalist for ABC radio news, Jodie is a very talented song writer/ musician and performer.

Sally and Jodie are currently working together to make a glossary of Aboriginal words from one of our language's main sources. the journals of George Robinson.

Our other FATSIL delegate is Lennah Newson, who has been involved with FATSIL for 18 months. The    management commit tee of the Language program chose Lennah for this role because of her lifetime involvement with our community and her dedication to our children, families and elders. She is also very active in promoting our cultural heritage and is a skilled basket- maker. Lennah has worked with our Child Care Centre, Substance Abuse and Family Support programs, has held executive positions in the TAC's governing State Committee, and currently runs the Link Up program.

We believe that language reclamation is a significant and enriching activity for Aboriginal communities. While funding and policy issues are important in furthering our aims, it is the patience and commitment of language workers plodding away at long and of¬ten tedious tasks that are the key to the real success of any language program. We look forward to the sharing of information be¬tween language centres and their workers which this newsletter will provide.