Birri-Gubba Federation PDF Print E-mail

From north Queensland comes the personal story of Renarta Prior, a Birri-Gubba woman who speaks proudly of her role in keeping alive the language of her ancestors.

My father Peter Prior, who is now 90 years old and a senior elder, speaks his parents' Birri language. They were both traditional owners of the Birri-Gia and Birri-Juru clan groups, which makes me one of the proud descendants of the Birri-Gubba nation. 

My father always spoke to my brothers and myself in language as we were growing up.  Unfortunately we only picked up on a few words here and there. This probably happened because when we came out from under the Aboriginal Act we all attended white schools, taught by white teachers and had white school mates.

One thing I would like to bring to the attention of our young people is that they need to respect our elders and start listening to them while they are still here to carry on our Aboriginal tradition and culture.

Our language is one of our main affiliations with our land, our mother earth. I, as the coordinator of the Birri-Gubba Language Committee would like to share with all other brothers and sisters who are involved in retrieving their traditional language, how we started our project.

Three years ago, I decided to write  down a few language words from my father whenever I had the chance to  see him. During this time I had collected quite a number of words, and started talking language to my father. He with great pride and patience always answered me, and would tell me if I ever pronounced a word in the wrong way.

It was a really trying time for me as I would often get annoyed with the thought of what the Europeans had done to our precious traditional Aboriginal language.

But then it also made me more determined to learn my beautiful and unique Birri-Gubba language and to share it with all of our Birri people who wanted to learn to speak in their ancestors' tongue.

I would personally like to thank Lyle Johnson, who is now the coordinator of our Regional Aboriginal Language

Management Committee and also one of our FATSIL delegates from the northern region. Lyle had taken a great interest in getting my father and a few other Birri-Gubba people to form a local committee.

It was through Lyle that I became involved in working on my father's language in more depth, as at the time, I was not aware of any funding being available to retrieve Aboriginal language, and I was more or less doing it for my own immediate family.

But we are now at a stage where we have produced our first Birri Language Kit, and we are also in the process of producing a Dream-Time Story Book, in English and Traditional language. We also have playing cards which will be done in animal format, naming each animal in language.

Last but not least, I have put together a few lines of Birri language that we hope to use for our Songs and Poems. Then our main goal is to put together a Birri-Gubba Dictionary to suit all of our people, and to understand in a simple and traditional way.

Appreciation to Lyle and our beautiful elders, who are very proud to hear their young generation trying to learn their lost but not forgotten great Birri-Gubba language.

Besides the opportunity to thank one of our remaining senior elders, my dear father, Mr Peter (Gullumbah) Prior, I would also like to pay a special tribute to our beloved elders that have passed on but have left their spirits with us through their recorded language tapes taken some twenty years ago.

This was one of my greatest inspirations to carry on in our struggle to be recognised, not as a dying race with no culture, but through our language to the revival of our Birri-Gubba Nation.

Yours in the struggle. Renarta Prior Coordinator Birri-Gubba Wadja Bimbi Language Committee.