As a student of linguistics at Monash University I recently completed a three-week placement with the Pama Language Centre in Bamaga, Cape York. During this time, I gained a glimpse into the vital and urgent nature of language revitalisation for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
I had the privilege of working with several local Elders. With the guidance of my supervisor, linguist and language facilitator Xavier Barker, I was able to create documents in the ancestral languages to be used in the teaching and learning of these languages, such as Mpakwithi and Angkamuthi.
I was also fortunate enough to visit Poruma Island, one of the Central Islands of the Torres Strait. There I collaborated with other language facilitators during a three-day workshop to assist the islanders in the revitalisation of their language, Kulkalgaw Ya.
This once in a lifetime opportunity gave me an invaluable insight into the crucial work being done across Australia to revitalise indigenous languages. It provided me the chance to apply my knowledge of linguistics in a practical setting and develop my skills in translation and linguistic analysis.
The work being done by NGOs such as the Pama Language Centre is essential to ensure that the ancestral indigenous languages of Australia are preserved in the face of extinction. I believe that we all have a part to play in supporting these communities and ensuring that the flame of culture keeps burning.