Reviving Kaurna language
Indigenous Education Feature
Every formal speech delivered at the University of Adelaide is preceded by a statement acknowledging the Kaurna people as the traditional custodians of the University's land.
How many people within the University's staff and student body - which collectively number around 30,000 - can actually recite that acknowledgement in Kaurna?
Only a handful, according to Dr Rob Amery from the University's Linguistics Discipline.
To give more people a chance to learn some simple Kaurna words, an informal session introducing people to the Kaurna language will be held on Wednesday 4 July from 2pm-5pm.
An "Introduction to Kaurna", held in the Rare Books and Special Collections Room in the Barr Smith Library (Level 1), will cover basic terms such as greetings, `thank you' and some simple statements, as well as provide some background to Kaurna names on the North Terrace campus.
In 2010 a revised spelling system was adopted for the Kaurna language. This session will explain the new spelling system and draw comparisons with the old spellings, many of which are still in use in public signage.
Dr Amery, a Kaurna language specialist, is hosting the workshop in conjunction with Art and Heritage Collections.
The Kaurna language was historically spoken on the Adelaide Plains from Crystal Brook and Clare in the north, to Cape Jervis in the south. It ceased to be spoken on an everyday basis in the 19th century but was reclaimed and re-introduced in the 1990s.
Dr Amery and a body of Kaurna elders and youth are driving the revival of the language, which has a documented vocabulary of 3500 words and a 200-page learner's guide.
In April, a Certificate III TAFE course on learning the Kaurna language was offered for the first time in South Australia. It attracted 15 people, most of them key Kaurna figures within the Kaurna language movement as well as two Adnyamathanha people. Adnyamathanha is a closely related language from the Flinders Ranges.
Trevor Ritchie, the grandson of Kaurna Elder Dr Alice Rigney, was one of the students.
Trevor is keen to become fluent in Kaurna and will be involved in the University of Adelaide symposium on 4 July.
"It's great to see the Kaurna acknowledgement being used in formal speeches across Adelaide and to see non-Aboriginal people involved in Aboriginal culture," Trevor said.
"Respecting the Aboriginal culture helps to instil a sense of cultural identity in young Indigenous people. It's also great to share a few words with friends such as `hello' and `goodbye'.
Mirna Heruc, the Art and Heritage Collections Manager, said she hoped the Kaurna language session would become an annual event.
"It is 10 years since the University first adopted the Kaurna acknowledgment in its formal speeches but, in some respects, we have not bridged the gap much further when it comes to using the language," Ms Heruc said.
"Being able to say just a few words would make a big difference - even to give a basic greeting in Kaurna.
"Unfortunately, most people feel unsure of the pronunciation so don't attempt it, which is a real shame."
A number of University centres on the North Terrace Campus now bear Kaurna names, including the new engineering building Ingkarni Wardli ("place of learning"), the University's Indigenous education unit Wilto Yerlo ("sea eagle"), and Yaitya Purruna Indigenous Health Unit ("our own health and wellbeing").
To register for the Kaurna language afternoon session email email@example.com, or for more details, phone 8313 3086.
The session is open to the general community as well as staff and students.
Story by Candy Gibson