“Languages are both an expression of culture and the vehicle through which culture is kept alive. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the ability to speak or use words and phrases of Indigenous languages is a critical factor in cultural identity and individual and community wellbeing’ Indigenous Language Support” (ILS).
The SharingStories Language App is an iOS Application initially built and designed with the Paakantji community. The project was led by NSW Aboriginal Language Advisory Board member, Paakantji speaker and then Regional Language and Cultural Officer Murray Butcher and Indigenous linguist Craig Ashby with the support of the Paakantji Language Circle. The App populated with written/audio recordings of language words and related pictures now enables production of community owned and controlled interactive audio-visual dictionaries that can be continuously grown and updated.
SharingStories has worked with the Paakantji community from Wilcannia in NSW, all the way across to Mildura in Victoria, supporting ongoing population of the App and helping teachers and language workers embed the resource in cultural and educational activities. The App supports inter-generational collaboration and transmission of language on Country and in community with young people often responsible for the recording of language words and pictures.
The Language App is now available to other communities to use to record, document and hold their own languages. We are currently working with the Gija and Nyikina communities in the Kimberley and help tailor the App architecture to individual community needs, setting up administrative levels and categories and mentoring local community language workers.
Language work on Paakantji Country
Paakantji language is listed on UNESCO’s Critically Endangered Language List (less than 5 speakers remaining). The Language App will make a significant contribution to community capacity to record and hold Paakantji language and aspects of the cultural knowledge held within it. Wilcannia Language and Cultural Centre through which the SharingStories Program runs, services communities in Menindee, Bourke, Mildura, Broken Hill and Coomealla.