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Over a period of 18 months, we worked with a reference group of nine language custodians from across NSW and the ACT to develop the Living Language exhibition. We met with them regularly here at the Library and we were hugely fortunate to visit them on Country to consult more broadly with their communities and film for the exhibition. One of the warmest welcomes we received was from the Anaiwan mob in Armidale who brought together their Elders and younger generations in a whole-of-community approach to support this project and lend it their voices.
The work of the Anaiwan Language Revival Program, based out of the University of New England, is extraordinary. The program’s members work tirelessly to revive the Anaiwan language, which was devastated by the aggressive colonisation of the New England Tablelands. Its researchers, such as Callum Clayton-Dixon (far left) and Gabi Briggs (left) use historic language materials, including those housed within the Library’s collections, to build and strengthen the Anaiwan language. By taking language out of institutional archives and speaking and teaching language locally, the Anaiwan Language Revival Program is re-establishing the absolutely vital connection between language, Country, culture and community.
While the Library’s collections contain seminal historic language materials often used in language revitalisation efforts, it was clear in Armidale and everywhere we visited that language cannot and does not exist on those pages in isolation, taken from its context. Country is where our languages come from, and where they are most alive.
It was exciting and heartening to see the next generation of Anaiwan language custodians speaking and learning the local language (so quickly!) on Country.
Here is Mason, Aryannah and Amaliyah reviewing the footage we’d filmed at Yina Nature Reserve with videographer Bill Code (right) and me (far right).
Marika Duczynski (Gamilaroi)
Project Officer, Indigenous Engagement