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Across the Cape Community programs strong in the Far North | Language, Community, Doomadgee, Country, Projects, River, Region, Program | FATSILC, Fed. Aboriginal Torres Strait Island Languages and Cul
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Archie Roach visits our display stall at the Pacific Rim Youth Conference.
Concluding a look at projects underway in North Queensland - with Alberta Hornsby.

The Cape York and Gulf Indigenous Languages program was formed in 1994, and at that time the first priority was to set up an administration, and to establish a network which would canvas the language needs of this region. This is known as Region 4, taking in Wujal Wujal in the South, north to Cape York and West to Doomadgee.

There are an estimated 57 Indigenous languages of this region, and approximately 13,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living here.

The membership of the Cape York and Gulf Indigenous Languages Program is made up of interested community members, and language workers within our region.

We have been sponsored by the Guugu Yimithirr Warra Aboriginal Corporation at Hope Vale for the past 4 years, and an administration centre has been newly established in Cooktown. Having a separate administration centre from the sponsoring body, enables us to fulfil our obligations better and give more support to community projects.


Dancing by the banks of the Nicholson River.
Since the formation of the language body, we have had several regional conferences. Our most recent conference, which was held at Napranum, set the pace and direction for our language projects. At this conference, emphasis was placed on the development and more community control of language projects in schools. A presentation of " A Different Approach to Language Projects in Schools" was given by Ernie Grant, Irene Hammett and Norman Tayley. This presentation gave delegates an insight into the development of curriculum for Guugu Yimithirr and KuKu Yalanji. Everyone at that conference was excited about this development and we were soon talking about "what needed to be done".

It was resolved at that meeting, that the co-ordinator would visit communities and help set up reference groups and identify resources, which would support curriculum development. When this was done then as a group, the education department would be approached. As a result I visited Injinoo in December 1996, Doomadgee, Kowanyama, Laura, Coen, Arukun and Lockhart River in 1997 and I found that all of these communities have the necessary ingredients to satisfy LOTE guidelines for curriculum development.

I followed this through and tried to get to the next base, but I was disheartened by negative attitudes. However, this will be followed through on behalf of these communities.

I felt so fortunate to be able to visit these communities, and see for myself this amazing country. Like all areas in Australia, this region is huge, and the different countries are so full, that my mind could only imagine the intense knowledge and language of such a diverse land.

The people from these countries have a deep love and appreciation for their country, and were very much afraid of their knowledge of language and culture dying, as more of our Old People die each year, and this system is swallowing us up. There are other issues like mining and land claims which demand people's attention, so it is a credit to these dedicated community language workers, who continue to teach their children year after year.

It was refreshing to see the enjoyment children get learning about language, culture and country in all of these communities.

As I said at the beginning there are an estimated 57 languages in this region. This financial year we received $98,500 from ATSILIP grant and the following projects are funded this year :

Hope Vale: the maintenance of Guugu Yimithirr.

Through the Hope Vale Community Learning Centre, six language projects arc being supported this year.

All projeots are community initiated, and will be conducted by community people.

  1. Researching kinship and relationships through community weddings.
  2. Proposed bush medicine research.
  3. River catchment research Gaamav and Nguymbarr Nguymbarr area. (Clan member research in conjunction with the River Catchment group Cook Shire.)
  4. Recipe book. (Part of TAFE literacy course.)
  5. Proposed research Dhiidharr area.
  6. Proposed research Ngurrumungu family history. (Elder from this clan group have given us permission to reprint his family history.)

This will be done in a different format.

All of our projects aim to build up reading resources for use in the community.

Coen: Revival and maintenance, Kaantju, Lamalama and includes Umpila and Wik Mungan.

The Aboriginal community at Coen is made up of language speakers from all the surrounding areas. The township of Coen is situated in Kaantju country. The language program is co-ordinated by Jenny Creek, and is delivered in the school.

The project aims to provide learning experiences for all language groups in Coen, and like most of the language learning, focuses on learning language through cultural knowledge and practices.
Aurukun: Language maintenance Wik Mungan. Aurukun is a very beautiful community in the western peninsula of Cape York. Its closest town is Weipa, a bauxite mining town. Wik country is very large and Wik people have very strong cultural ties to their country. As well as the main community, there are also several outstations where people live. This project is sponsored by Manth Thayan Association, and it aims to maintain the Wik language. There are seven dialects of Wik.

Through this project, resources will be developed to increase the self esteem of Wik language users, and to encourage youth in their first language.

Mornington Island: Revival and maintenance Lardil.

The community has been supporting the school for many years by providing a culture program as part of the school curriculum. This program is supported by all sectors of the community. Since 1994, with the help of ATSILIP funds, the focus of this program has moved to the revitalisation of Lardil language.

In 1997, Mornington Island Shire Council published a Lardil Dictionary by Ken Hale and others. Work is being carried out this year by linguist Anna Ash, to publish a learner's guide to Lardil. There are about a dozen fluent speakers of Lardil, mainly Elders.  

There arc three other indigenous language groups on Mornington Island. These arc Kayardild (traditional language of nearby Bentick Island, ) Yan gkaal (language from Denham and Forsyth Island). and Yukulta (Gangalida from the mainland between Doomadgee and Burketown. ) This language education project is part of a greater community move to revitalise local language and culture.

Elizabeth Jack and Maureen Wallace (Hope Vale) Norman Tyley and Doreen Doughboy (Wujal Wujal)
Doomadgee: Retrieval and maintenance Ganggalida. Preservation of Waanyi and Garrawa.

Doomadgee is situated in the Gulf of Carpentaria, on the banks of the Nicholson River. The community is situated in Ganggalida country, and surrounded by the language groups Garrawa, Waanyi, Nguburinja and Mingin. The Elders have resolved to focus on teaching Ganggalida, because it is the first language of that country. There are only two fluent speakers left of Ganggalida, Grandfather Angus Jerry and Grandfather Richard Brookdale. Over the years, a lot of language resources have been collected and retrieved. The RATEP students are involved with this project. Language is taught through learning and participating in cultural lessons.

This project is sponsored through the Doomadgee Indigenous Education Aboriginal Advisory Committee. I visited Doomadgee during NAIDOC week and I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and enjoyment the children and community Elders showed in sharing cultural knowledge, through dance and storytelling. The dance style from Doomadgee country is very different to East Coast dance, and the memory of the children doing the Brolga Dance, on the banks of the Nicholson River is just so pleasant, it makes me giggle.

I have a special love for Doomadgee. On this visit I was reunited with family and for the first time in my life, I thought about my Great Grandmother Grace. I remembered her.

Last year, I was told of the death of my brother from Doomadgee, Daryl Walden. Daryl was a language coordinator. He was young and humble. My deepest sympathy goes to his Mother, Auntie Kathleen, and to all his family and to the community of Doomadgee.