Bundjalung language needs support

CUSTODIANS of Widjabul country and elders of the Bundjalung nation have made a call for support from the NSW Government to keep their language alive in the Lismore area and the Northern Rivers.

A spokesperson for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) said, "We don't know exactly how many people speak Bundjalung, but it is probably less than 50."

But elder June Gordon said there may be a bigger number of people who speak the language and teach it to their families, but "there has been no approach to the language speakers who teach it".

"We are concerned that our young people and our children, if they are not taught the language, it will die and they will have no identity", she added.

Widjabul elders Irene Harrington and June Gordon are two of the local elders who advocate teaching Bundjalung language and two of its dialects (Jubullun and Wia-bal) to their children and grandchildren.

NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Victor Dominello, recently headed a community forum in Lismore addressing a number of issues identified by a ministerial taskforce.

One of the areas of discussion on the day was a possible Language Lighthouse, a partnership program between State Government and communities to revitalise Aboriginal languages in NSW schools and higher education facilities.

Minister Dominello said he was "very pleased to hear from people who were passionate about the revitalisation of the Bundjalung and Gumbaynggirr languages".

"People seemed to agree that language is a very important part of culture and identity," he said.

June Gordon recommended "DAA to consult with language-speakers, not to general Aboriginal public in this matter".

"We are happy to discuss this issue with the government, we are happy to do what it takes to keep our culture alive," she said.

In the meantime, DAA stopped short from committing to funding a Language Lighthouse for the Lismore area.

"The taskforce is yet to determine where the Lighthouses might be established," a DAA spokesperson told The Echo.

They also confirmed that all NSW Aboriginal languages are listed as either extinct or critically endangered and have very low numbers of speakers.

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