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Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs
Language learning in Indigenous communities
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Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs
CHAIR (Mr Neumann)
Grierson, Sharon, MP
Stone, Dr Sharman, MP
Haase, Barry, MP
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Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs
(House of Reps-Monday, 30 April 2012)
CHAIR (Mr Neumann)
- CHAIR (Mr Neumann)
Content WindowStanding Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs - 30/04/2012 - Language learning in Indigenous communities
ALBERT, Ms Gina, Employee, Mabu Yawuru Ngan-ga
APP LE BY, Ms Dianne, Language Working Group, Mabu Yawuru Ngan-ga
DEAN, Ms Linda, Mabu Yawuru Ngan-ga
EDGAR, Ms Noreen, Employee, Mabu Yawuru Ngan-ga
LEAHY, Ms Carmel, Employee, Mabu Yawuru Ngan-ga
LEE, Ms Martha, Employee, Mabu Yawuru Ngan-ga
MAVROMATIS, Mr Michael, Employee, Mabu Yawuru Ngan-ga
YU, Ms Coco, Yawuru Language Working Party Member, Mabu Yawuru Ngan-ga
Committee met at 10:41
Yawuru language spoken throughout—
CHAIR ( Mr Neumann ): I declare open this House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs inquiry into language learning in Indigenous communities. At the risk of mispronunciation, I will give a local welcome: Ngadyi mingan?]. I welcome everybody to this hearing in Broome today. We will ask Dianne Appleby to give a welcome to country.
Mrs Appleby : I welcome Mr Barry Haase, member of parliament, and all the other representatives. Welcome to Broome. I take this honour and privilege to welcome you. This is Yawuru country and we are very, very proud. I am going to welcome you in my grandfather's language. There is a fantastic revitalisation of this language.
Mrs Appleby then spoke in Yawuru language—
I was saying that this is the country we used to call Roebuck Bay. You can see the beautiful coastline and the bay heading towards Mangalagun. We are very proud of this country. We also speak Yawuru Ngan-ga, Yawuru language. I acknowledge everyone here in this room because you have travelled to this inquiry into language learning in our Indigenous communities. I also acknowledge the other traditional owners who have travelled to this country and Yawuru country. Thank you.
CHAIR: As a committee, we would also like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to the elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who now reside in the area. Please note that these meetings are formal proceedings of parliament. Everything said must be factual and honest. It can be considered a serious matter to mislead the committee. The committee welcomes people to give evidence in their own language. We would like to be able to take your evidence back to the committee as a whole, to be published as part of our inquiry. You can look at that on the net. A transcript of today's proceedings will be published on the net. While we make every effort to have interpreters available at public hearings, it is often difficult to anticipate when interpreters will be needed and for what languages. If you choose to speak in your own language, we would appreciate it if you could also translate into English, if at all possible, or have someone do it for you. This hearing is open to the public and is being audio broadcast live via the internet.
CHAIR: We greatly appreciate your coming and making submissions as well as your giving evidence. We have received your submission. I ask Sharon Grierson to move that submission 147 to the inquiry into language learning in Indigenous communities be received as evidence and authorised for publication.
Ms GRIERSON: It is so moved, Chair.
CHAIR: Diane, would you like to start?
Mrs Appleby : I have been a language worker and a teacher for 20-odd years. My vision here will continue because I believe that, without the vision, the people and our language will perish. I have been with Yawuru language from very early development, and I will speak later. Thank you. Kalia mabu.
Mr Mavromatis : Ngadyi kurridyin mabudyin [Indigenous language not transcribed]. How are you going? It is good that you have all come here. I am a Yawuru person of the barr'jarri skin section. Ngayu [Indigenous language not transcribed]. I am happy to be here with you today. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. I am asking you guys if you are happy to be here.
CHAIR: We are very happy to be here, Michael.
Mr Mavromatis : Yes, Kalia mabu. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. I tell you truly that we are all happy to be here. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. This land here belongs to the Yawuru and Jungun people, and it belongs to them. [Yawuru language spoken]. We are still here [Yawuru language spoken] and we have been here forever. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. I am working with the Yawuru language. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. I work at the Yawuru language centre. [Indigenous language not transcribed].
I learnt my Yawuru a long time ago from the old people. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. They spoke to me in Yawuru. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. They told me these words are like a story. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. This saltwater country and land belongs to us. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. It gives us a lot of food and helps us to live, and it is because of the Dreamtime. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. It is because of a long time—because of time like forever. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. This country—the salt water and the land—belongs to us. It is for always. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. You truly look after this country. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. You had better look after this country.
My work at the Yawuru language centre is editing traditional speakers from 30 years ago—recordings done by Komei Hosokawa from Japan, who was a linguist that came here. I personally knew him, and I personally knew the people he interviewed. My job is to edit and cut down the soundtracks to make them shorter, to make them easier to listen to, as well as editing out any family and private stuff. I feel I am the right person to do this because I know these people and some of the people on those tracks have passed away, young and old. I appreciate what my teachers have taught me because they carried this language without any schools or anyone helping them. These people lived on Thangoo Station. They came from many tribes—Mangala, Yawuru, Nyigina—and they all lived on that station before they were kicked off so many years ago. They have not been allowed to go back there to this very day. So I appreciate these people, because they carried this language without having any school or writing and they learnt from each other. Gradually those people whom I have met in the last 30 years came to Broome. So we should appreciate those people, because all the anthropologists and linguists that came here would not have been able to do the work they did if these people did not have any knowledge of English. So these people are very educated people. They knew two languages—sometimes four or five languages—as well as English. I have known Aboriginal people from Beagle Bay who spoke fluent German, Malay, Indonesian and even Japanese. The importance of the Yawuru language and all Indigenous languages in Australia is that it gives us an identity, it helps our self-esteem and it is important to our survival in the cultural world. [Indigenous language not transcribed]. Thank you very much.
Ms Albert : Ngaji gurrjin—hi, how are you all? Ngayu nilawarl—my name is—Gina Albert. I have only been working there for a short while, but while I have been employed I have been putting Yawuru words into the Lexique Pro—the dictionary. Also, I have listened to Dianne's recordings and cut and pasted them, and transferred the recordings to the Lexique Pro dictionary. I have also been doing some recordings with Mick speaking in Yawuru. The recordings from Dianne that I have been listening to were recorded 10 years ago. They came from AIATSIS.
Ms Dean : I am part of the Mabu Yawuru language services. Adding to what my niece, Gina, had to say, we were involved in this recording to try to revive another dying language. As language is a very strong part of our culture, we feel we do need assistance in retrieving stories and enhancing our language. That is all I can add. I would like to thank you for any assistance that you guys could give us.
Ms Yu : I work for one of the schools but I am also doing Aboriginal language teacher's training with the Department of Education. I receive a lot of help from Yawuru Ngan-ga. I am not a native speaker of Yawuru; I am only just learning. Growing up in Broome, there were lots of different languages: Asian, Aboriginal, English. Relearning Yawuru is challenging, but I am also finding that I actually do know far more than I thought I did. It is latent. When you are growing up and listening to the old people telling stories and talking to each other, you realise you are learning, but I did not realise that I was hearing Yawuru. A lot of the words I spoke, I did not realise they were Yawuru words because a lot of words we use around here are Bardi. I found that very interesting.
As a trainee Aboriginal language teacher, it involves a two-year course. At the end of it, we get limited authority to teach. I have found it very hard but I have had a lot of help from Yawuru Ngan-ga. For me, Yawuru is very exciting to learn but I am terrified of teaching the wrong thing. Having people here who can support me, I can make up storybooks using interactive smartboards and things like that. But I am terrified of teaching the students the wrong thing. All these people here have helped—and another person who is not here today, Dalisa Pigram-Ross, who has been teaching at Cable Beach primary for a very long time. It is fantastic if you can have a network of speakers to help. These people who have been teaching for a long time and keeping the language alive, like Dianne and Mick, are invaluable to people like me who come along later on. As Linda said, because there are very few Yawuru birth speakers left, it is very important for us to teach it. I teach from pre-primary to year 2 at the moment at my school. Next year it will continue to year 3 and will carry on like that. Last year in year 1, I had a very shy girl who would not speak in front of the class. She is a Yawuru child although English is her first language. She would not get up and speak in front of the class, but one day we were playing Yawuru bingo in the class and she won. I was so surprised. I thought, well, come on up and say this word. And she did. She was very proud. She practically ran up and grabbed the key word picture and said 'gugu' meaning dad or father. At that stage, I was on the verge of thinking this was too hard but she got up there and was so excited to speak in front of the whole class. I realised that, yes, this is important and we must keep doing it.
Ms Edgar : I was born and bred in Broome. My mother was a Yawuru woman and my father is a Karajarri man. My grandfather is Bunuba. I am really proud to be working with this mob: my project officer, Martha; Gina, Michael and Dianne, my niece. What this lady who is not here and I do is teach Jalygurr-Guwan—the children of the pearl. We teach them language and singing in Yawuru. We teach them the Yawuru names for things. These cards with Yawuru names were done by my nephew Ian Gilbert.
CHAIR: They are very good.
Ms Edgar : It is good to see all the people here. Some of our family are up the back there—Aunty Wendy. When all the tourists come, we do our traditional dances in Broome. We go out in the bush and get our own stuff. I always make a black and yellow fringe. It is good though.
CHAIR: I bet the kids like playing the cards, do they?
Ms Edgar : Oh yes. When we want to go, the kids do not want us to go. They want us to stay there.
CHAIR: Sharon Grierson, a friend, to my left, who was a school principal before she was a politician, thought they would be good flash cards to play snap with. That is a great idea. I think they are fantastic, really good.
Ms Edgar : Thank you.
Ms Lee : My skin name is banaka. I work at the Yawuru office. I am the artist. I do illustrations and drawings for the kids' counting and story books. I have just finished another book for Dianne—Bugarrigarra story—which was told by her mother. We have some of the books here that we have done. This one was done by me—it is a storybook. This book is by another artist, Maxine Charlie. This is her art. We have CDs of it. It is in language; it is also translated into English. This one here is a counting book with jellyfish.
CHAIR: Terrific—they are absolutely fantastic, aren't they? Do the kids love these?
Ms Lee : We went to all the schools last year with Maxine Charlie and Dalisa Pigram to launch all the books.
CHAIR: I like your little frog appearing all the time.
Ms Lee : Yes, the frog got up one day and went for a walk. In the back of the book it is in English, but the whole thing is written in Yawuru language. That is the first illustration book I have done, and then there is a counting book—how many jellyfish. We have a set of cards to go with the book.
CHAIR: You have a set of cards, Martha, to go with the books.
Ms Leahy : With the book; we are making materials to go with the books. Martha does that. You do that in Photoshop?
Ms Lee : Yes, we do Photoshop on the computer. They are teaching me how to get into the program in the workshop. I have never used a computer, but—
CHAIR: So, Martha, you and Maxine did a lot of work on this book? It has not been launched yet, I understand.
Ms Lee : No. I did the cover, and Maxine and I did the images of the sea life and bush life.
Ms GRIERSON: It is wonderful to see your resources going from just the cards with one word through to whole sentences and phrases in both languages based on country and land and your art. It is absolutely beautiful. Congratulations to everybody. It is beautiful.
CHAIR: Yes, it is very well done.
Ms Lee : Thank you.
CHAIR: Carmel, do you want to say a few words now?
Ms Leahy : Ngadyi kurridyin. I came to the Kimberley about 28 years ago as a teacher, but it became very apparent that my teacher training was not enough because, in every single class I have gone into in the Kimberley in that 28 years, Aboriginal people have come and said, 'We want our language in the school; we want our language to be taught in your class.' So I did training in linguistics so that I could assist Aboriginal people to teach language. I came to Broome to have a quieter, slower working life. But it has not exactly happened; as you can see, we are very busy with Yawuru language here in Broome.
Part of the reason that I really support what the Mabu Yawuru Ngan-ga team are doing is that, unfortunately, the last inquiry that I was involved in was into the high rates of suicide in the Kimberley and across Australia, and I feel that children having knowledge of their language and their culture makes them strong and resilient to face whatever life throws at them and that we really must support people when they want to give their children their language and culture. Kalia; thank you.
CHAIR: The language centre was only established, according to the submission, in April 2011. Is that correct?
Ms Leahy : That is correct, yes.
CHAIR: You have done remarkably well since that time.
Ms Leahy : We have worked hard, yes.
CHAIR: Can you tell us about the background—how you got to a point of establishing a resource centre which seems to have made such great strides and success since then? What was the background?
Ms GRIERSON: You said you have recordings that go back 10 years, which really interests me too.
Mrs Appleby : First of all, I think we need to get to where we are from the beginning in the foundation of the Yawuru language, so here is just a little bit of background of who I am. My mother is Nadja Karajarri and my father is Naurdu Karajarri, so I come from a Karajarri family. Most of my time spent at home was with fluent Karajarri language. I am a Nadja Karajarri person and a Balgarri person. My mother said that we need language maintenance—we need to record Yawuru—and that is where it started. I said, 'That's my grandfather language; let's get started.' I did not have the full skill of writing, but I have been to school and I know how to read and write. We needed extra training and we contacted the Kimberley Language Resource Centre, which assisted us in developing an orthography.
The birthing started with the vision of spending quality time with the elders that we did have.
I and Coco and my two jamuru Auntie Noreen's mother, Jamuru Elsie and Jamuru Selma and my mother and my other auntie [Indigenous language not transcribed] Suzanne put a lot of effort into teaching at within a school and in developing an orthography so we could start writing. I acknowledge also that Komei Hosokawa had commenced a study into the language of Yawuru. He did an extensive study, and he did a thesis from it. However, we needed a simple format so that we could utilise it within the school system.
Broome Primary School was the first school that we started teaching at, and I believe that was a very successful time for us. We started to extend the language to offered as an option; it was not part of the curriculum as a language other than English but just an optional subject. We put out a survey, and we got that started at Broome Primary School. There was a bit of a hiccup there with administration, but we continued to persevere with the program.
Then my mother and I started a volunteer homework class after school. If students finished their class homework, they were able to come and do the language program. So we developed a program for after-school, and it was all volunteer. As we extended it, it started to get popular. The popularity of learning a language other than English and learning about Indigenous culture started to really get big. Then the principal and I had a chat and we implemented it as part of a language-other-than-English program, and from there it started to grow and grow. There were a lot of little lumps and bumps that we had to get through, and we had the language specialists on site. I was still learning, even though my language was pretty good because of the Karajarri language that I have; Yawuru was a new language for all of us. Then the education department through Lola Jones and Joyce Hudson and Barbara Jones assisted our linguists and our specialists in preparing all our words. Then we started to put it throughout the school, and you can see that, if you go into Cable Beach Primary School, now the fruition of the work and the time spent in the early stages is expanding.
Like Martha, the rest of the team and Coco have stated, Dahlia is a shining light bringing everybody into a really strong language delivery. She has a lot of energy, and I am really happy to be sitting here amongst all the language workers. I feel privileged to be here today with them. It is a vision that I have always had working with my mum. She is quite frail today, and she has done a lot for the Yawuru language. Without people like her and my two jamurus, the language would have been very weak; but we see a revitalisation of the Yawuru language. We can only get stronger.
The Yawuru language is a very soft language—it is a beautiful language to speak—and, if I can pick it up at a mature age, every one of you and the people in this audience can pick the Yawuru language up too. It may be a soft and beautiful language, but it is a strong language: it holds strong culture. This comes from our Bugarrigarra. We use the same word in Karajarri as we use in Yawuru. It is from the dreamtime. It has been handed down for generations; oral history has never been lost. We may have been impacted; we may have been asked to speak a language other than our own; however, the language of the Yawuru people has never died. It became weak, but it was always within the old people.
So we are very fortunate to have recorded what we did have, but we have a journey ahead of us. With this journey we can see this town of Broome, even though it is modern, with modern technology and with the workers that we already have in place, we can only see it expanding and becoming stronger so that people appreciate and respect the Yawuru language and culture. Thank you.
Dr STONE: Thank you very much, Dianne, for those insights. You talk about some 14 students per week who are doing Yawuru language courses through the language resource centre. What ages are those students? Are they an equal mix of boys and girls? I ask because we have an example here where, like in the rest of our inquiries throughout Australia, virtually all of the people giving us submissions are women. Take your group, for example—Michael is the only male amongst you. Why is it that there tends to be a preponderance of women picking up the language issues? Is that a problem for boys in classes participating, because it is seen as women's or girls' work?
Mr Mavromatis : What I would like to say about the woman thing is that women are very powerful people in Yawuru culture—actually, we have survived from women.
Ms GRIERSON: And in most cultures.
Mr Mavromatis : I come from a line of women; I do not have any male Yawuru in me for two generations—or maybe three—so our women have survived. They did whatever they could when the pearlers and the pastoralists came here. A lot of those early pastoralists and pearlers who came here killed our men and took our women. That is why in Broome we have a culture of Asian, Aboriginal and now European, and that is the reason that women now play a big role in carrying our culture today.
I personally am, like you say, sitting here speaking Yawuru to you as a Yawuru man. I took it on myself about 30 years ago for my own personal being to get my identity back. I am a musician, and we played music over east and met a lot of Koori people and Murri people, and when we went there we realised the devastation of their culture in places such as Victoria and Tasmania and so on. One time we went to Germany as an Aboriginal band. We went there for Australia night in Cologne, and when were all there we suddenly realised that we were speaking English, and it dawned on us that English is another language.
Going back to the ladies: they are the main survivors of our culture because they get most of the food. They do most of the work, and they get the food—especially 'mayi' which is vegetable matter. Everybody thinks that we just eat meat all the time, but you have to have vegetables to survive. The women are the experts at knowing the bush and getting mayi. The men just hunt kangaroos and stuff like that, and that happens probably once a week or something. Nothing has changed, I think. I think that answers your question.
Dr STONE: Yes, but are you having the same number of boys as girls picking up the language classes in schools?
Ms Leahy : Yes, we have a group of Yawuru rangers, all of whom at the moment are men. How many are there, Mick? It is at least half men.
Mr Mavromatis : Yes, we have men rangers coming in for lessons. They are all very keen to learn, and it helps them with their jobs and their identities.
Ms Leahy : There are more men than women, actually.
Ms Yu : I teach both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. I work at St Mary's, and there are approximately 30 in each class. They are double stream from pre-primary to year two, and they are pretty even numbers of boys and girls. The policy is that all children have to learn Yawuru, not just Yawuru children.
Dr STONE: So for non-Indigenous students as well it is a compulsory subject?
Ms Yu : Yes.
Dr STONE: You said that it grows the esteem of the Indigenous children when they have their own language being taught, and you—
Ms Yu : Yes, they are all very eager to learn, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. I find that the non-Indigenous children find it quite exciting because it is something different to what they know. A lot of the Indigenous children, when they first come in and start learning, all start giggling and acting embarrassed because we are speaking an Aboriginal language—we are speaking Yawuru—but then we explain to them that Yawuru is the language from this land, and then they become far more positive and are very eager to learn.
A lot of them are not Yawuru Aboriginal children; they are from different areas. But they are still very eager to learn Yawuru because it is an Aboriginal language, and I am sure that they would be more than happy to learn their own languages as well.
Dr STONE: My final question is about what language the children come to school with, say at preschool level. Is it with what is called Kriol in some areas or contact language? You call it Broome English, I think. Do all Indigenous children when they start school have sufficient Standard Australian English to immediately start learning in that language, or do you think that English as a second language should be a compulsory part of every teacher's training so that a child who arrives with a Kriol, or indeed a traditional language, can have that understood and begin their learning in that language?
Ms Yu : Personally, from my experience, I believe that the majority of Aboriginal children start school with standard English as a second language. I work in administration as well. People are asked—for NAPLAN, MCEECDYA and all of that—to put down what standard of English they speak. The majority of Aboriginal people will put standard English, but I know them personally and in my opinion they do not speak standard English. As far as I am concerned they speak Aboriginal English, Broome English or Kriol. I can give you an example. Only a couple of years ago a non-Aboriginal person was employed as our receptionist, and she would put calls through to me saying she could not understand a word they were saying, yet the people who were speaking thought they were speaking standard Australian English. This was a white person, and she said to me, 'I can't understand a word they're saying,' so she put them through. It took her about three years before she could understand an Aboriginal person speaking English.
Dr STONE: So it is English as a second language. You were talking about LOTE before. Are there any of your teachers with ESL training? Is that something you are looking at in this area as well?
Ms Yu : Not me personally. I do not know; I am just doing my own little thing here. That is probably a question more for the education department.
Dr STONE: We are talking to them next, so we will tease that out. Thank you very much.
Mr HAASE: Thanks to you all for coming and giving most interesting information and some wonderful examples of what can be done as learning aids. It is a great way of keeping your stories together and making them more accessible as well, so congratulations to you. I am going to turn to the practical and sustainable side of language teaching. I know that your group has a number of facets—when I say 'your group' I speak broadly of the Yawuru movement and the various organisations. How difficult is it for you, as a group concerned with language and the teaching of Yawuru, to convince those members of Yawuru councils that are controlling the flow of cash to contribute part of Yawuru financial resources to language? I am not sure who is able to answer or would like to answer.
Ms Leahy : At the moment they are funding our operations mostly; we get a small amount from MILR.
CHAIR: How much do you get from MILR?
Ms Leahy : It is $50,000 for the year. The rest—employing all of us beyond Di—is covered by Nyamba Buru Yawuru.
Mr HAASE: Is that difficult? I am not going to be silly enough to ask you if you would like more money!
Ms Leahy : We want lots more money! We could work more quickly if we had more funds.
CHAIR: Your local member is here, so he is a good person to speak to.
Mr HAASE: What I am trying to have you put on evidence is the ease or difficulty of extracting those necessary additional funds to finance the good work you do. How do the people that are holding the purse strings deal with your request? How do those that are holding the purse strings rate the significance of teaching language?
Ms Leahy : Very highly. When I began in the job we did start in a shed. Everybody was very pressed, but what happened is that I was given a desk. People who had employed me did not really understand what it took to keep language going. So it soon became apparent that we needed a team. I said, 'Oh, no, I won't be doing all the language work; I'm just coordinating.' All these people came in, and we just moved into the shed next door. Our chairperson at the time, Peter Yu, came in and said, 'Oh, I suppose you're going to be needing a space.' They have needed to rent a second building and they have given us space in there. We are getting a new building at Bernard Way, on Yawuru land. They have given a sizeable space in there and are hoping that we can grow our operations. We are hoping to get Yawuru in every primary school in Broome—aren't we, Lola? Even with our adult classes we have had to institute a waiting list because we have 18 and the room is bursting. We are just waiting on new premises so we can expand that class.
Mr HAASE: What is your highest cost factor? Is it resources of wages? Is it—
Ms Leahy : Wages.
Mr HAASE: Yes, it is wages?
Ms Leahy : Wages, yes.
Mr HAASE: Okay.
Ms Leahy : Because we need to involve Yawuru, and it is great employment for Yawuru people.
Mr HAASE: Thanks, Carmel. Does anyone want to add anything more to that?
Mr Mavromatis : I started working in the Yawuru Language Centre last year, after I did the Yawuru social survey in Broome and then I did the national census. I did that out in the remote communities. Then I walked into the Yawuru Language Centre last year and I said, 'Here I am. I am a Yawuru speaker: employ me.' Carmel said, 'Well, we can only employ you for 15 hours a week.' I said, 'That is fair enough.' I did that and then I went away for a holiday for about 3½ months and I came back this year and I walked in again and they said, 'Only 15 hours a week.' I said, 'Well, can I work 30 hours a week and just finish my budgets?'—because I do not like doing things incomplete; I want to do the job because I have got a specific job of cutting mother-tongue speaker phrases and writing down the meaning, because my job now is to duplicate all those sentences and words. It is going to take probably a year. It all depends how fast I work.
But, yes, we do need money to pay people to do things. I do not know how much. I do not think it is a lot, but that is not to say that the Yawuru native title holders and the PBC are not supporting us. They support us quite well, but there is only so much support they can give us because they have put money into other things like the survey I did last year—the housing survey. We walked around town for three months to find out the situation with Aboriginal housing. As to the Yawuru PBC and native title holders of Broome, I would not say they are not supporting us; they are doing the best they can. They have to put resources into other areas. But all the people here do a wonderful job and work as much as possible to get value for money.
Ms Appleby : Can I just say something very quickly?
CHAIR: Just briefly, because we are running late.
Ms Appleby : First of all you talked about the Nyamba Buru Yawuru and whether they got support for us. Before my mother became too unwell, she said, 'We need to go and see Pat Dodson now. And we need to see that young fellow Mr Yu, because I am very concerned that the number of our elders is very, very small and they are getting unwell—their age and health is not on their side.' There is a concern there for me with regard to language. We need these workers—Nyamba Buru Yawuru, the PBC—to have a future plan. The future plan is to expand the language resource, because it is the foundation: without the language you are not going to have your bugarrigarra, your kinship or your identity; you need the language. It is the foundation. It is the building of culture. We need that extra financial support as well as the physical support, because my mother is not very good. My 'jamuny' is not travelling young, and the same with Jamuny Elsie. These are the last three—we need our language people trained and developed, so that we can expand, even get stronger.
Ms GRIERSON: Thank you, Dianne. I think we have understood the urgency. You have made such progress in such a short time, but there is an urgency to continue your work and make sure you access the elders and the people who still have the language. So that point has been made very strongly—and, of course, that takes resources, money and people.
I thank you, too, for reinforcing things we have heard in other areas. It is the strength of family, and passions, that we have seen in other areas, that have kicked all this off and kept it going. It has been great. We have seen some wonderful young people committed to their families and trying to hold onto their culture through their families, so that has been reinforced here too.
You mentioned technology, and I think that will become more and more powerful, because you have started off with resources this way but, in a media enterprise centre, you have such opportunity to do more if you can afford it and have the resources. I looked at your wonderful resources as a former principal and teacher, and I think they are based very soundly. They tell a story for you about country, and young people need that, but I come to a place like Broome and white history is in-your-face all the time and it seems to me that Indigenous history needs the stories told through the language as well. I know you have started that at some level, but it seems to me that there is so much more work to be done to not lose the history of the wonderful people who have contributed to this place—individuals like you mentioned, particularly the women. And in your cultural plan, you have all that. It is quite wonderful. So you are on the cusp of doing even more and more things, and I wish you well.
The chair wants me to ask one question particularly, and that is about 'Broome English'. What is it? How strong is it? Is it fading as you do this work? What is its place?
Ms Yu : I think Broome English is an amalgamation of Asian languages, English and all the different Aboriginal languages around the place. It is also English words which could have a completely different meaning. I will give you an example. I do not know if they still use it in football, but one of the terms in football was he "upstairs 'em"—meaning he took a screamer over somebody else. So that is an example of Broome English.
Ms GRIERSON: And is it currently used or not?
Ms Yu : I don't know about that particular phrase, but it changes. I notice that my children are speaking English but I don't quite understand what they are saying. It changes constantly. So it is English, but it is Broome English.
Ms GRIERSON: So it is very much the evolving of a local language and a local dialogue between people of very many different cultures?
Ms Yu : Yes. And not just the word spoken but the expression, such as—what is that clicking noise?
Ms GRIERSON: All right, I think that gives us an understanding! I was going to ask you what barriers there are for you continuing your work, but obviously resources and money are two of those—and time, in not losing access to the original people of this area.
The only other thing I would like to ask is: if you could increase its integration—I heard you say you were training the rangers to use Yawuru language, which is wonderful; I guess they will start putting it on more signage et cetera—what would you do to integrate it so that, when a visitor comes to Broome, they understand straightaway that there is a local people, a local language and a local culture, so they would get a stronger understanding of that? What would you do? Is that important or are you so focused on doing what you are doing, which I think is very valuable?
Mr Mavromatis : What we have done with Nyamba Buru Yawuru is that, before, the language was been taught in schools—and that was because of Lola Jones over there and LOTE, languages other than English. That has been carried on by schools. Now that Yawuru people and Jugan people have won native title in Broome, we have a bit more resources. So native title plays a big role in the survival of language. For Aboriginal people who do not have native title, their language may not survive, because native title—
Ms GRIERSON: Say the two systems were just totally separate. This is your country, this is your land. Your people are coming here.
Mr Mavromatis : It was not before; it is only technically ours now, through deals with the government. Before language was carried by persons or people like me, Dianne and all these people here and just things that we knew. Aboriginal English is changing all the time too, because before we had more Yawuru words in our English. Aboriginal English changes and it is not a standard thing. It is more important for us now to learn our proper language.
Ms GRIERSON: Yes, or it will be gone.
Mr Mavromatis : Because Aboriginal English is in transition. It is just our way of surviving in the Western world. We speak English. That is why I said before that it is lucky that our old people know English as it made work easier for the anthropologists and linguists coming here. They should have paid them more money for it.
Ms GRIERSON: I take your point that it is a very powerful way to learn. Learning is powerful and language is powerful, because it is part of learning.
Mr Mavromatis : Language is our soul, our 'liyarn'.
CHAIR: Thank you very much for your evidence. We are running about 25 minutes late, so I am sorry. Yes, Linda?
Ms Dean : I would just like to leave this with you, the panel: what assistance can you give us? You can answer that maybe during lunchtime or something, but—
CHAIR: I am happy to answer that now. We will be making recommendations for the government. The government has six months in which to respond to those recommendations. Your evidence is invaluable today. We anticipate handing in our report in September or October this year. Thank you very much for coming.