When developing an activity around Australia's first languages, it is vital to work alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, groups and communities in your region.
Many of the language listings on Gambay: First languages map, gambay.com.au, include links to a local Indigenous language centre or program as a point of contact for language advice.
For those languages where a link is not provided, when getting started it will be useful to have conversations with:
- Local organisations and groups in your area including your libraries museums and cultural centres.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land councils and community organisations.
- Schools working with communities to deliver a local language curriculum.
- Indigenous ranger groups and the people managing national and state parks across your region.
Ways to connect
- Talk to local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members about what kind of relationships they would like to have with the Council and the role they see for language in that relationship.
- Use Gambay as a stimulus to link with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and talk about their connections to country and languages across Australia.
- Consider creative ways to allow people the opportunities to share their knowledge, stories and languages. For example, engaging language workers to visit the Council regularly, encouraging regional participation in national language activities such as Marrin Gamu(marringamu.com.au) and This Place (abc.net.au/thisplace), and displaying a languages map in a prominent place in the Council building where employees and community can see and engage with it.
Things to consider
- Do your own research and find out what you can about the local languages situation in your area. Don’t expect Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people to have all the answers for you. Take responsibility for your own learning and education with regard to our shared history.
- Find out about past policies and practices and how they have impacted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples and their languages in the local area / region / state. Consider their ongoing impact.
- Understand that our complex shared history leads to better understandings about the language situation today. Look for stories about people’s experiences with regard to language and talk to people about their own.
- Get to know people and communicate openly and genuinely.
- Avoid assuming the language backgrounds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in your community. Be aware of the local traditional custodians in your area as well as local community people and elders who have long histories in the area with strong connections.
- Language can be a sensitive issue for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly for those who have been dispossessed of their country, their language and their families. Tread lightly and discuss ways of communicating in respectful ways.
- In different locations around the country, communities will have different levels of awareness about the languages spoken (both past and present). There will be different ways of talking about the local languages spoken in different places across the country. For example, people may talk about traditional language in terms of ‘lingo’, ‘tribal way’ and how language belongs to country. Terms like ‘home language’, ‘Koori/Murri way’, or connections to particular towns may be used to explain new languages such as creoles and varieties of Aboriginal English.
- Give people time to think, reflect and discuss the ideas about language in terms of our complex shared histories. It may take many discussions before you come to a shared understanding about the language situation in your local area.
- Recognise and value the oral traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and groups of the past, the present and for the future. These languages may not be written down but they hold a wealth of information about, and specific to, your region.
- It is important to recognise that payment for language services may be appropriate.