The Goldfields Aboriginal Languages Centre was established to preserve the Goldfields Aboriginal languages, provide speakers with use and enjoyment resources, and to create learning and intergenerational language transfer opportunities. The Centre commenced as a project in July 2011 and is now an incorporated NGO. The initial focus was to work on two of the Goldfield’s languages, Ngalia and Tjupan. However, this was expanded to include all languages of the Goldfields region on receipt of additional funding in 2014.
In 2015, The Goldfields Language Centre received funding to establish a language centre to work with all the languages of the Goldfields region. There are 12 languages in the region, however much of the language analysis work remains to be done and the exact number of dialects of each language is yet to be resolved. GALCAC was awarded 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 was officially opened in June 2016, opened in Hannan St, Kalgoorlie but is now in larger premises at 2 Burt St, Boulder.
Senior linguist, Sue Hanson, met with a wide range of people in 2011 to discuss the development of the language project and the processes used in language collection. The project has a great deal of community support with many people stating they were very pleased to see the language preservation work commenced. Many elders were very anxious to record their stories and language.
The 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 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 12 years of the language centre so far.
The linguistic work will develop an understanding of the two families of Aboriginal language of the region; the Wati family and the Mirniny family. This is 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.
The information provides 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 had 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, extinct. Language research work will enable linguists to determine the status of each language and work with speakers to ensure the languages are used, enjoyed and passed on to younger people.
Dr. Doug Marmion, was engaged by Senior Linguist, Sue Hanson in 2008 to undertake 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.
The project is funded by the Federal Government’s Indigenous Language Support (ILS) program. GALCAC is an Aboriginal incorporated body with charitable status. Sue Hanson is the senior linguist and she is supported by field linguists, technical linguists and, most importantly, Aboriginal language workers.
GALCAC became incorporated in 2020 following 6 years of work to achieve this. A staged transition to full independence from the National Trust WA was made over 3 years. The support from the National Trust enabled the staff and Directors to manage each step carefully and is very appreciated. GALCAC is now an independent incorporated organisation with charitable status.