The Goldfields Aboriginal Languages Project

The Goldfields Aboriginal Languages Centre was developed to preserve the Goldfields Aboriginal languages. The centre commenced as a project in July 2011. The initial focus was to work on two of the Goldfield’s languages, Ngalia and Tjupan. However, this was expanded to include the Kuwarra language, the Kaalamaya language of the Kubrun people in Kalgoorlie, Ngaju, Cundeelee Wangka and Ngalia.

In 2015, The Project was successful in obtaining 4 years funding enabling it to provide linguistic support and services to all the languages of the Goldfields region. It is estimated there are 12-14 languages in the region, however the work remains to be done and the exact number resolved. The Project was awarded 4 years of Commonwealth funds in order to ensure all language groups of the Goldfields received support and for the establishment of a Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre. The Centre is due to be opened in June 2016.

Senior linguist, Sue Hanson, met with a wide range of people in 2011 to discuss the project and the processes used in language collection. The project has much community support with many people stating they were very pleased to see the project commence.

A first workshop was held in Leonora on Tuesday 29th November 2011 for people interested in learning more about the collection and preservation of Aboriginal languages, and specifically about this project. A wide range of people attended and this gave direction to the project. Subsequent meetings with each language group has enabled linguistic plans to be developed and worked on over the 6 years of the project’s operation so far.

 

Attendees at the 2016 Aboriginal Languages Conference hosted by GALC

Linguistic Work on the Goldfields Languages

The linguistic work will develop an understanding of the variety of Western Desert Languages of the region. This will be undertaken through the collection and analysis of data on these languages and will develop a better understanding of the status of these languages and the need for further documentation and revival work.

This information will provide a basis that will enable a wide range of valuable future work, ranging from technical documentation of the little- described languages of the region, through to materials that can be used to preserve the languages as living communication systems and/or may be used to revitalise them, now or at some future time.

This kind of work has proven extremely valuable in other parts of Australia. Little of this kind of work has been done previously in the Goldfields region. There are still numerous speakers of the WDLs of the region; but this situation is not likely to last. Some of the languages may be close to dying or in fact dead. Language research work will enable linguists to determine the status of each language.

Dr. Doug Marmion, of AIATSIS, was the linguist who undertook the preliminary work in the Goldfields in 2008 and said, ‘In my time working in the Goldfields region I was approached a number of times by members of the various language groups and my advice sought as to how they could go about arranging to have work done on their languages. In every case they expressed concern that the usage of their language was declining and little was being done in terms of either documentation, or to supporting their maintenance.’

The outcomes for the project are not just the preservation of the languages, but the recording of life stories and reconnecting people, culture and country through language.

 

City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mayor, Mr. John Bowler

Officially opening the GALC office, June 2016 on Hannan St, Kalgoorlie

Project Funding

The project is funded by the Federal Government’s Indigenous Language Support (ILS) program. The National Trust of Western Australia is the grants recipient and funding administrator. GALC is the community based organisation managing the project on the ground. Sue Hanson is the senior linguist and she is supported by field linguists, technical linguists and Aboriginal language workers.