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Jaru Animal and Plants Project | Language, Project, Children, Bonnie, Plants, Animals, Knowledge, Town | FATSILC, Fed. Aboriginal Torres Strait Island Languages and Culture
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Jaru Animal and Plants Project
Bonnie Deegan with Bonnie Sturt, holding ngurnungurnu, a plant that smells like apples when the leaves are crushed.
A community language project aimed at the sustainability of language and traditional ecological knowledge in the East Kimberley, WA.

By Janelle White

IT'S 43° C and we're sitting in a riverbed under the shade of malarn (red river gums) and lambu (paperbarks). Stan Brumby is preparing a barndu (water monitor) for lunch and the women are fishing.This is Stan's home, he grew up on Lamboo Station, just south of Old Halls Creek.

He tells me stories about those years and his work as a jackaroo.These days he's fighting for the right to live on his land, to have access to a large part of himself. He has to translate his feelings and knowledge into white law, to be documented and filed as evidence of "ownership".

He relates the stories, songs and ceremonies traditionally performed to regenerate land and manage natural resources. He looks forward to the day he can leave town and return to his land to live.

I've come to the Kimberley Language Resource Centre (KLRC) to work on a project with Elders of the Jaru language group. We're putting together a book on animals and plants found in Jaru country, collecting the names and traditional uses of all sorts of bushtucker in and around Halls Creek. I'm working alongside a lovely, lively mob of people, all intent on keeping their language alive and meaningful for their children and grandchildren, as a key aspect of defining and caring for Country. Project participant, Bonnie Deegan, explains: "the project
is important so the children can learn and the names of the plants and animals don't disappear altogether...for the young generation to carry it on and on."

Jaru Animal and Plants Project
Barbara Sturt and 6 year old Bonnie Sturt at river's edge
The Elders, their relatives and friends are keen to see their country properly cared for and hope to provide the young people who have been brought up in town with a chance to re-connect with the land, their language and culture.They are working on this book and taking their children out bush in the hope of encouraging them to become more self-sufficient, to increase their pride, dignity and self-esteem and to help them avoid the culture of violence and social decline now found in town. Barbara Sturt explains:"Sometime I feel in my heart I feel inside I'm sad...the things that're happening in town. We try to bring our young children out here and tell them story, to learn them a bit
of bush life. To bring back the memories of what we done and our family, our grandparents and our ancestors." Barbara grew up on Old Flora Valley Cattle Station where her father was a stockman. Bushtucker was a major part of everyday life, supplementing station rations and providing important nourishment. Since her family was forced off the land in the 1960s she has made regular trips back to the country she recognises as home, to introduce her children to their heritage.

"It was one of my dreams to learn to speak my language again," says Bonnie. She was taken away from her mother at age five and brought up in an orphanage in Broome, (a coastal settlement approximately 1000km west of Halls Creek). At the time she lived with her people on Margaret River Station, she spoke her native tongue, Jaru, and Kriol, but she soon lost her language knowledge when she went to school."Nobody ever spoke their language in school.That's how I lost my language," she explains. She has since studied how to speak, read and write her own language and actively supports language projects and activities run at the KLRC."This (plants and animals) project is important so the children can learn and the language doesn't disappear altogether. I think it's really and truly important that we shouldn't lose all our knowledge about all these animals and plants and that the new generation of children should learn," Bonnie says.

For more information on the project please contact:

The Kimberley Language Resource Centre PMB I I Halls Creek WA 6770
Ph: 08 9168 6005
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it