Indigenous language workshops connecting the Gunggari to culture


For many Indigenous Australians, learning a traditional language is not as easy as talking with an Elder or returning home.

For some First Nations people, the discovery and connection with autochthony occurs later in life.

Gunggari woman Judy Hobson has a common history: her family’s Aboriginal cultural heritage has slowly dissolved over time.

After a profound healing process, Mrs. Hobson was determined to keep her culture alive.

“Then I always knew that my mother’s people were of Aboriginal descent. Even as a child, I could feel that we had something we were ashamed of, something that could not be shared,” Ms. Hobson said. .

Gunggari woman Judy Hobson said she always knew of her Aboriginal heritage(Provided: Judy Hobson)

“Personally, and I can speak for my brother too, a deep healing is taking place in our lives as we finally take pride in our Gunggari bloodlines.

“There are those who have always authentically practiced their Aboriginal identity; those, like me, who learned their identity later in life; and those who are completely cut off.

Lost cultural language

While Mrs. Hobson proudly reconciled her heritage, learning her mother’s ancestral language was more difficult.

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Next Generation Indigenous Language Teacher Training Program

In response, the Gunggari Native Title Corporation has developed a series of language workshops.

Society has recognized the need to reach out and teach all Gunggari, regardless of their location or previous exposure to the language.

Ms Hobson said it was the first opportunity she had to learn her language.

“Attending the Gunggari language workshop was a major step in learning where I’m from and how amazing my story has always been. It fills my heart with hope.

“Language is a matter of connection for me. It is a tangible way that I can live in my aboriginal.

“To be exposed to how much the Gunggari language has been preserved is a joy for me.”

Opportunity to connect with culture

The first language workshop in Toowoomba saw a group of 16 proud Gunggari residents teaching an introduction to the language, how to say hello and a few everyday words and phrases.

A native smiling at the camera
Richard McCarthy helped organize the Toowoomba Gunggari language workshop.(ABC News: Anthea Moodie)

Gunggari man Richard McCarthy helped organize the Toowoomba class. He said the experience was a positive step towards reviving the language.

“This is the first workshop held outside the country,” said Mr. McCarthy.

“We have a lot of people from Gunggari all over Queensland and people from the interstate who want to know if we were going to put this online so people who cannot return to their country or go back to workshops can find a way to learn.

“A lot of us have only learned a few words, but being able to learn to speak to each other in one language will really help us revive our language so that we can teach all of our crowd.”

The company hopes to deploy more workshops in Brisbane, Woorabinda and Mitchell.

Pioneers bring the language to school

Gunggari has been taught effectively in schools in West Queensland for many years.

At St Patrick’s School in Mitchell, students conduct their entire parade in the Gunggari language.

Indigenous languages ​​consultant Des Crump has worked in this space for over 20 years and said the progress has been admirable.

Native man smiling at the camera with a whiteboard with an aboriginal language in the background.
Des Crump, an Indigenous languages ​​education consultant, said it was a great initiative. (ABC News: Phoebe Hosier)

“Mitchell’s youth sing songs at Gunggari. They’ve been producing plays, stories, all since those early days. [of learning],” he said.

“What’s great is that we started with simple words, but now we can build sentences, have a conversation [and] using it in everyday life in different ways. “

Just the beginning

As for Mrs. Hobson, who is also a musician and singer, this is just the start.

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“I have Gunggari words and translations written on my whiteboard, recorded on my phone and on sticky notes on everyday items,” she said.

“I find the language melodically exploitable. It’s beautiful but it also has a high degree of difficulty.

“It opens up articulators that I’ve never used. It’s challenging and demanding, and I love it.”

A band playing on stage
Judy and her partner Gerard started writing a song in the Gunggari language. (Provided: Judy Hobson)


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