New era for Indigenous languages and music

Monday, 28 November 2016

Education and research into Indigenous languages and music will be boosted at the University of Adelaide thanks to the establishment of a new national centre dedicated to supporting and promoting Aboriginal cultures and identity.

The National Centre for Aboriginal Language and Music Studies (NCALMS) will be officially launched today at the University of Adelaide. The centre brings together three key units that will work in partnership:

• the Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM), which offers foundation studies for Indigenous Australian music students seeking entry into degree programs;
Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi (KWP), which is engaged in the reclamation and teaching of the Kaurna language of the Adelaide plains; and
• the Mobile Language Team (MLT), which supports the revival and maintenance of the 45 Aboriginal languages identified throughout South Australia.

The Director of the National Centre for Aboriginal Language and Music Studies, Professor Aaron Corn, says the new centre aims to strengthen Australian Indigenous communities through education, cultural development, and innovative collaborations in language and music.

"For Indigenous Australians, there is an inseparable link between language, music and culture," Professor Corn says.

"Language and music are intrinsic to the expression of culture, and are intertwined with the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people. Through language and song, Indigenous people traditionally understand their relationships with community, law, country and ancestors.

"In contemporary Australia, where maintaining their languages into the future presents Indigenous communities with unique challenges, the Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi and Mobile Language Team programs play an invaluable role in enabling dedicated researchers and Aboriginal language speakers to work together collaboratively," he says.

"The Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music, which was established by ethnomusicologist Catherine Ellis and numerous Aboriginal leaders in 1974, adds another layer of depth to these processes. It remains Australia’s only dedicated centre for scholarly teaching and research into Australian Aboriginal music.

"By combining the expertise of each of these distinct groups – where they can operate simultaneously as independent entities and as a collaborative body – we will provide a dynamic, innovative environment."

Steve Gadlabarti Goldsmith, a Kaurna man of the Adelaide plains and a Language Media Officer with KWP, says he welcomes the formation of the new national centre.

"We're enjoying our new space with CASM and the Mobile Language Team because we're able to work with other language workers, which means we can see how other Aboriginal groups are recording and reviving their languages," Mr Goldsmith says.

"With CASM we can collaborate with their staff and students, and involve our language with many genres of music that can be targeted for different age groups. Learning language through music and song is the easiest way to learn a new or old language.

"Warra ipila palti – language though music and song!"

Professor Corn says the national centre will contribute significantly to developing new strategies for strengthening Australian Indigenous music and languages, and will offer valuable new pathways for emerging Indigenous leadership in these fields.

"It is important to ensure that Indigenous Australian languages and music have a future, and that Indigenous people have appropriate opportunities to take on leading roles in ensuring that future. Our new centre is an investment in this vision," Professor Corn says.

"The centre will enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to develop and acquire knowledge that is vital to ongoing maintenance of their languages, music and culture, and their continued growth in the contemporary world," he says.


Contact Details

Professor Aaron Corn
Director, National Centre for Aboriginal Language and Music Studies (NCALMS); and Director, Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Music (CASM)
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 3652

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762