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Marjorie Petrick Energy | Marjorie, Arrernte, Language, Braille, Bachelor, Institute, Petrick, Learning | FATSILC, Fed. Aboriginal Torres Strait Island Languages and Culture
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Bachelor Institute student Marjorie Petrick, setting her own course.
Bachelor Institute student Marjorie Petrick, setting her own course.
In Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Arrernte woman Marjorie Petrick is breaking into a new field in indigenous language education, learning to read and write the Arrernte language in braille.

With support from the Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics unit at Bachelor Institute, and access to a Mountbatten braille translating machine, Marjorie is now able to communicate in her mother's language, and is working confidently towards a career teaching others.


It's a delight talking to the cheerful 26 year old, who was at Bachelor Institute in August completing a two week unit for a Diploma in Language Studies.

When Marjorie talks about the events that have shaped her life so far, she pays far more attention to the positive experiences than the things that many other people could view as setbacks.

Born at Molly Hill Mine on the Plenty Highway north east of Alice Springs, Marjorie was a happy, healthy four year old, when, as she recalls:—

"A strong disease went through our community. I remember my eyes were so bad, I was sticking things into them to try to scratch them - they were so itchy and infected. The disease was trachoma. I was taken to hospital in Adelaide for an operation, but it was too late. They said after the operation that my sight would improve as I got older, but it didn't. I stayed in Adelaide then."

Marjorie can see light and dark and has a clear memory of some colours.


"I remember the colours of fruit, oranges and reds, and the green of trees. I love those colours."

Marjorie says her doctor would like to operate again now to improve her sight but she is not interested.

"I am quite capable of doing whatever other people can do."

Marjorie was sent to college in Darwin when she was 15. It was there she learned to read braille, and during four years at the college, enjoyed new experiences and friendships.

These days she lives with her family at Hart's Range, with three sisters close by and her brother 200 kms away in Alice Springs.

Study isn't Marjorie's only passion. She makes time for poetry and story writing, and took time to compile a little of her own history for our newsletter.

From Marjorie Carmen Petrick "My brother and sisters mostly speak Arrernte. I speak three languages. The languages are Arrernte, English and Alyawarra. My mother taught me Arrernte when I was ten years old. My father taught me how to speak Alyawarra. I learned English when I was in Darwin for four years.

"I went to school at Tiwi Primary School. I had special classes every afternoon. There were four of us in the class. I liked being there. I was interested in learning how to use the talking typewriter as well as the computer. At school they had computers with two discs - one disc for writing and the other disc for talking. I didn't worry much about my family because I had a lot of friends.

"My life was full of joy and I had lots of things to do. The most enjoyable thing I used to do was roller skating. During holidays I used to come back to visit my family. In my younger days I used to compete in the Pan Pacific games. I went in the discus throwing, high jump, shotput, swimming, 100 metre sprint, long jump and javelin. My favorite sports were discus and swimming. I won 16 medals and 13 trophies, 8 golds, 4 silver and 4 bronze.

"I went to Fiji for the national title in track and field. I had a good time but when people reminded me that I was outside of Australia, I felt lonely.

"I enjoyed competing in the games and meeting different people, and travelling to many places to compete. I flew to Brisbane to receive a trophy for being sports woman of the year. Kath Walker presented me with the award. I was a bit shy because people were watching me, they videoed me and it was shown on - the television news.

Now I am studying a diploma in language study at Bachelor Institute. I hope to finish it in a couple of year's time.

I can speak Arrernte strongly these days, but I want to learn how to spell and read Arrernte words. This is the first time I have written Arrernte words in braille, using the Mountbatten braille machine.

I can now learn to read my language by myself. I have a dictionary, song book and workbook in my language. I can work independently."