Language conference in Kalgoorlie-Boulder aimed at decolonising First Nations’ languages

Madeleine Clark Kalgoorlie Miner – Wed, 11 October 2023

Professor Peter Yu is the keynote speaker on the first day of the Wangka Kanyilku, Wangkawa Language Conference in Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Credit: Alicia Perera/Pilbara News

Language experts will travel to Kalgoorlie-Boulder this month for the Wangka Kanyilku, Wangkawa Language Conference presented by the Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre.

The conference, which will take place from October 24 to 26 at the Curtin University Kalgoorlie Conference Centre, features three keynote speakers as well as a full program of presentations and workshops centred on the Survive, Revive, Thrive theme.

GALC chief executive Sue Hanson told the Kalgoorlie Miner this year’s conference was aimed at exploring the theme of decolonising First Nations’ languages.

“Decolonising is the process of a body withdrawing their rule after colonising a place,” she said.

“Since colonisation, English has been the dominant language in Australia — First Nations’ languages are viewed as of less importance and having far less currency.

“Decolonising language refers to the reframing of First Nations’ languages into the future, about reclaiming First Nations’ linguistic rights to agency, dignity and control of heritage language.

“(It also means) valuing the languages as much as English is valued, ensuring families have the rights and resources to undertake intergenerational transfer of language, ensuring first language speakers have linguistic rights to their heritage language, and to ensuring people who think in a language can continue this as a right.”

Ms Hanson said the first day of the conference would address the survival of First Nations’ languages, the second day the revival of languages, and Thursday the thriving of languages and steps forward.

“The papers, talks and workshops provide a wide breadth of topics from research findings by top linguistics in the field, talks about the effect of linguistic loss, language reclamation and interpreting through to hands-on workshops such as how to use lexical databases, creating audio wave files, creating films, making family relationship posters, and setting bush tucker seeds in resin,” she said.

GALC linguist Jackie Coffin, member for Kalgoorlie Ali Kent, senior linguist Sue Hanson and linguist Troy Reynolds

GALC linguist Jackie Coffin, member for Kalgoorlie Ali Kent, senior linguist Sue Hanson and linguist Troy Reynolds Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre linguist Jackie Coffin, Member for Kalgoorlie Ali Kent, senior linguist Sue Hanson and linguist Troy Reynolds Credit: Carwyn Monck/Kalgoorlie Miner

Professor Peter Yu, a Yawuru man from Broome who has more than 40 years of experience in Indigenous development at local, State, national and international levels, will deliver the keynote address on the first day of the conference.

The keynote speaker the following day is Noongar woman Denise Smith-Ali, who has worked for two decades on reviving and maintaining Noongar language.

Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann, the founder of a new global trans-disciplinary field of enquiry called Revivalistics, will present the keynote speech on the final day of the conference.

The conference will begin with a breakfast barbecue, welcome to country performance by the Tjupan Children’s Choir, and opening address by Ms Hanson followed by the official conference opening by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti.

Each day of the conference will feature four consecutively run session times filled with paper presentations and hands-on workshops.

Attendees also have the opportunity to take a Kalgoorlie-Boulder bus tour and attend the conference dinner hosted by comedian Kevin Kropinyeri at the Hannans Club on October 25.

Ms Hanson said between 100 and 120 people were expected to attend the conference.

“Most people are from the regional language centres around WA, with teams coming from Halls Creek, Kununurra, Bidyadanga, Hedland, Geraldton and Perth,” she said.

“(These are) professionals involved in the linguistic field, First Nations’ organisations such as native title bodies, rangers and community development groups, language teachers, and Goldfields First Nations’ people who are keen to work on their language’s revival or use.

“The organisers are thrilled that State Minister Dr Tony Buti will be attending on Tuesday to open such an important conference.”

The conference will also coincide with the launch of the first-ever published Ngadju dictionary by the Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre on Thursday morning.

Tickets and the conference schedule can be found at the GALC’s website.

Read the original article here on the Kalgoorlie Miner’s website.