It is over 150 years since American linguist Horatio Hale documented the Awabakal language in Newcastle. His notebook is back in Australia for the first time for our Living Language exhibition.
Hale visited Australia from 1839 to 1840 and chronicled the work of missionary Reverend Lancelot E Threlkeld who worked with Beerabahn (Biraban) to translate the Bible into the local Awabakal language.
Hale’s notebook and Threlkeld’s Bible are coming together to show some of the different ways language was understood and recorded by non-Aboriginal people. Also on display is a portrait of language informant Beerabahn (c.1830) who humanises the snippets and pieces of language recorded in the notebooks and word lists of people like Hale and Threlkeld.
Hale’s work is incredibly important to Aboriginal people and crucial for contemporary language revival work in Newcastle today. For the Library’s Damien Webb (Palawa) and Marika Duczynski (Gamilaraay) (pictured), to “see Hale’s notebook back on Country is extraordinary.”
“Up until now, the only way to see this important language resource was in person in Canada,” said Damien, who leads the Library’s Indigenous Engagement Branch. “We’re thrilled that the Western University in Canada has agreed to leave the Hale notebook here for an extended period for the Library to digitise and establish access protocols with Aboriginal stakeholders.”