Issue 6
Tuesday, 06 August 2019
Charles Darwin University
From left: Lorraine St Clair, Veronica Dobson and Jay Walker at the language lunch
From left: Lorraine St Clair, Veronica Dobson and Jay Walker at the language lunch

Staff are newcomers to ancient language

By Patrick Nelson

Staff in Alice Springs are a little more knowledgeable about the ancient Arrernte culture after a lunchtime language session at the Yarning Circle on Alice Springs campus recently.

Director, Regional Engagement and Development Jay Walker said there had never been a better time than NAIDOC Week in the Year of Indigenous Languages to learn a few words of the local language.

“We were delighted to welcome Arrernte elder and Companion of Charles Darwin University Veronica Dobson back to the campus to share her knowledge,” Mr Walker said.

“We heard that under their law, Arrernte people have a relationship with everything on the land – trees, rivers, rocks, animals, the mountains.

“We also learnt that while there are about 3000 speakers of Eastern and Central Arrernte, it is regarded as an endangered language spoken mostly by older people.”

Ms Dobson confirmed that every Arrernte word ends with the letter “e”, although it is not always pronounced.

She then “worked the class” through a list of about 25 common words, and a short conversation, which went like this:

“Werte (G’day, what’s up?).

“Ware (nothing much).

“Unte mwerre? (are you alright).

“Ye, ayenge mwerre, unte mwerre? (Yes, I’m alright, you alright?).

“Ye, mwerre, urreke aretyenhenge (Yes, I’m alright, see you later).

“Kele aretyenhenge” (OK see you later).

Mr Walker said CDU was committed to becoming globally recognised for Indigenous leadership.

“We are determined to play a key role in Indigenous success and in developing the next generation of Indigenous leaders.”

More than 13,000 Indigenous students have qualified from CDU with a VET qualification since the mid-1990s, and more than 1000 with a higher education degree, including 14 with a PhD.

The event was organised by staff in the Office of Indigenous Student Support with the help of volunteers from the Student Ambassador program.