Native tongue wags again

School children will soon be able to learn a language not spoken between people in lake Macquarie for almost 150 years.

 

Daryn McKenny has been working for the past eight years to revive the tongue of Lake Macquarie's traditional Awabakal people, which he says was arguably the first extinct language in Australia.

Mr McKenny is manager of the Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association, which has just published the first children's book featuring Awabakal.

And there are plans to release a complete Awabakal learning resource program for schools within two months.

The children's book, called Lenny and the Big Red Kinan, is abouyt a boy who teaches readers Awabakal words as he collects insects while on a bushwalk.

Mr McKenny said the book would be distributed to pre-schools and child care centres, while the search was on for a primary school at which to trial the Awabakal language toolkit.

"At the moment, we're working on a wildlife kit that's about to be finished," said Mr McKenny, who is descended from the Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi peoples of Western NSW but was raised on Awabakal land.

"We're producing flashcards, games, books and dictionaries all relating to wildlife.

"We're about to now start on the body, then communication and relationships. All of this is going to be ready so that within two months time we can actually say that lessons are ready to commence."

Evidence of Awabakal comes mostly from Englishman Lancelot Threlkeld, who ran Christian missions in the 1820's and 1830's at the present sites of Belmont and Toronto.

Awabakal man Biraban is credited with teaching Threlkeld, whose legacy includes an Awabakal version of the Gospel of Luke.

Documentation of the Language appears to have died with Threlkeld in 1859.

"After that time there were very few speakerswho were able to communicate using the language and there werre no learners," Mr McKenny said.

"The language holds secrets about Lake Macquarie. It's specific to here and it's for all.

"The more Aboriginal and, especially, non-Aboriginal people can get to know it, the more they are going to grow up with a respect and an understanding of this country."

  • Friday, 07 August 2009