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For the Love of Language


LATE LAST YEAR, the Borroloola Woman’s Cultural Song Group, together with Dr Shellie Morris AO, took to the stage at Woodford Folk Festival as song group, Arrkula Yinbayarra – Together We Sing.

They introduced their beautiful album, Waralungku, to the festival crowd, something song group founder Marlene Timothy (Karkadoo) says was an amazing experience.

“We got standing ovations at each of our six performances, and so many people came up to thank us for being there,” she says.

“It was really important to form the Women’s Cultural Song Group to represent the four language groups in Borroloola, so we can keep our culture alive for our kids and share it with the world.”

Borroloola sits in Yanyuwa Country on the banks of the McArthur River in the Roper Gulf Region. It’s home to four clan groups – the Yanyuwa, Garrwa, Gudanji and Marra People. Their languages are celebrated on the album, lyrics translated by members of the song group as well as Assoc. Professor at Monash Indigenous Studies Centre, Dr John Bradley.

According to Bradley, there are only six fluent Yanyuwa speakers left in the world, nine Garrwa, four Gudanji and one Marra. He has a four-decade long relationship with the community and has safeguarded the Yanyuwa language through a dictionary, Yanyuwa Wuka: language from Yanyuwa Country.

The making of Waralungku was supported by Artback NT, through the Australian Government’s Indigenous Languages and Arts Program (ILA) of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts.

“Projects like Arrkula Yinbayarra promote First Nations cultural expression and creativity, which is what grant funding from the ILA program endeavours to support,” says Frank Shanahan from the Department.

“Artback NT is an extremely proud project partner of Waralungku”, says Artback NT CEO Shay Vigona-Goudge.

“Language is such a significant anchor of identity, and it is of great importance to us to support the preservation and celebration of traditional languages through our programs.”


Photo: Matt Wells Good Well Productions

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