Universities move to safeguard Noongar language


PHOTO: Ruby Dong.

A new encyclopedia of Noongar knowledge will be the next innovation in WA’s Indigenous language education.

The University of Western Australia’s School of Indigenous Studies recently received funding from the Australian Research Council to create ‘Noongarpedia’.

The project will be led by UWA Professor Leonard Collard, with help from Curtin University Professors Kim Scott and John Hartley.

Prof Collard said young Australians were hungry to know what it meant to be Australian.

“Young people are crying out, ‘we want to know this language, we want to know who we are, we want to know what our country’s about’,” he said.

“I think Noongar language … is part of this hunger.”

The South-West Australian Aboriginal language was taught in 26 of the state’s public schools during the first half of 2016.

Brookman Primary School Aboriginal education officer Merinda Hanson said the language was dying and action was needed to ensure it survived.

“That’s why we’re reviving it and bringing it back,” she said.

“Everyone that can remember at least two words – that’s two words that will never get lost.”

Ms Hanson said her students picked up the language quickly.

“My wish was always in this school to hear kids speak [the language] outside of my classroom, and then last year it finally happened,” she said.

“I’d go into art, and they’d be testing each other on their animals.

“Now they’ll greet you on the playground in Noongar.”