Indigenous language school set for Sydney


Yolngu language unit co-presenters Brenda Muthamuluwuy and Yasunori Hayashi.

Yolngu language unit co-presenters Brenda Muthamuluwuy and Yasunori Hayashi.

Plans are well advanced for the first Indigenous Languages Summer School, which will be run from Charles Darwin University’s Sydney Centre early in the New Year.

Yolngu Studies Lecturer Brenda Muthamuluwuy said CDU was working with the Australian National University to offer three fully accredited units from 8 January.

“It will be the perfect opportunity to begin learning an Indigenous language or to develop an understanding of the linguistics that underpins Indigenous language work,” Ms Muthamuluwuy said.

“Options will include an introduction to Yolngu Languages and Culture, a beginner’s course for Gamilaraay Language and an introductory linguistics unit, each of which will be offered as two-week intensives.”

Ms Muthamuluwuy and fellow CDU language lecturer Yasunori Hayashi will co-present the Yolngu unit, which will give students a basic grounding in Dhuwala (one of a number of Yolngu languages), including the sounds, grammar and a basic vocabulary, as well as an introduction to various aspects of kinship, songs, art and ceremonies.

The Gamilaraay unit would allow students to develop basic speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in the language of many people from inland northern NSW and southern Queensland, she said.

“The linguistics unit would focus on the scientific study of language, providing students with an understanding of sound production, parts of speech, grammatical relations in words and sentences, and meanings.”

Ms Muthamuluwuy described the summer school as a “proof of concept” proposition for what she anticipated could become a one-stop shop for learning Indigenous languages.

“We are working with ANU and other institutions to establish an Australian Indigenous Languages Institute. In time we hope it will draw together opportunities for Indigenous language learning, using courses and staff from many tertiary institutions. This will lead to much more teaching and learning in this important area.” 

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