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Sydney School Leads Efforts to Revive Lost Aboriginal Language

By Phil Mercer

A project at school in Sydney is leading efforts to revive an extinct Aboriginal language that was lost after European colonization. Chifley College is teaching Dharug to not only its indigenous students but others from Africa and the Pacific Islands as well as non-indigenous Australians.

The sounds of a lost language echo across a packed classroom in suburban Sydney as secondary school students help to revive an ancient part of Australia's indigenous culture.

Dharug was one of the dominant Aboriginal dialects in the Sydney region when British settlers arrived in 1788 but became extinct under the weight of colonization.

Students at Chifley College's Dunheved campus are taught by Richard Green, who is on a mission to rekindle an ancient language.

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Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay language resource

A new Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay language resource is available for download.

Gayarragi, Winangali is an interactive multimedia resource for Gamilaraay and Yuwaalaraay, languages of northern New South Wales, Australia. It is a resource for language learners at all levels, and for anyone interested in the Gamilaraay and Yuwaalaraay languages. It contains extensive language material, including audio. The main features are:

  • a searchable Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay Dictionary with over 2,600 entries, all including audio
  • 957 spoken sentences from traditional speakers, all transcribed, and hyperlinked to the dictionary
  • 30 songs and 14 stories, all transcribed, and hyperlinked to the dictionary
  • games, including crosswords and memory/matching games
  • other language resources as pdf and text files
Gayarragi, Winangali was compiled by John Giacon and David Nathan. It was launched on Monday 23 March by Professor Larissa Behrendt, to an enthusiastic audience of nearly 80 people, including many Gamilaraay and Yuwaalaraay people, at the Koori Centre, University of Sydney.

It was produced as a CD-ROM but is also available by download (about 200MB, Win XP/Vista), and is free for individuals and Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay organisations.

Go to http://yuwaalaraay.org and follow the link, or direct to http://lah.soas.ac.uk/projects/gw/.

Indigenous languages under threat, UN finds

The United Nations cultural agency UNESCO says more than 100 languages in Australia are in danger of extinction.

The latest edition of UNESCO's atlas of world languages in danger was launched in Paris yesterday and shows almost half the 6,700 languages spoken worldwide could disappear.

Sarah Cutfield from the Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies says the map is a great resource for those working to preserve traditional languages.

Original ABC article

UNESCO media release

Access to digital atlas

Unesco Endangered languages Worldmap (9M PDF)

Indigenous languages get a voice through Northern Arizona University

Indigenous languages are gaining momentum through Northern Arizona University's College of Education.

The college recently released Indigenous Language Revitalization, its current book compilation of 15 papers highlighting indigenous languages, from Navajo and Hawaiian to the Maori language in New Zealand.

"There's a real interest in Native American language revitalization," said Jon Reyhner, professor of bilingual multicultural education. "One of our goals is to become a leading university serving Native American nations."

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Our song up for Tamworth award

When Rod Slockee and Jeff Aschmann co-wrote and produced a song about the waterways within the Eurobodalla, little did they know it would take them all the way to Tamworth and the Country Music Awards.

Inspired by the Eurobodalla, a place of many waters, the duo recorded their song, "Eurobodalla", in a mixture of English and the traditional Aboriginal Dhurga language, to teach the importance of water conservation.

"My view is that this is good for the community, to realise the different language that was spoken by the Aborigines in the Eurobodalla before white people were here," Jeff said.

Read more: Our song up for Tamworth award

Wampanoag Language Reclamation Project


The Wôpanâak language (Wampanoag) was once spoken throughout eastern Massachusetts, but had no remaining speakers by the mid 18th century.

The awakening of Wôpanâak after seven generations without speakers is a uniquely inspiring story of cultural survival and tribal unity. Tribal citizens founded the Wampanoag Language Reclamation Project in 1997, and its participants and students are the first Native American community to successfully reclaim a language with no living speakers.

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