Wurundjeri woman Brooke Wandin searches for Indigenous language


The data she has pored over – together with the compilation of phrases A Lexicon of the Australian Aboriginal Tongue, compiled by Aboriginal “protector” William Thomas in 1862 – encourage her that the language is there for her to seek out.

Her goals now embody making a map containing place names and tales, and likewise a Woiwurrung dictionary.

Detail from William Thomas’s lexicon that noted words from Aboriginal languages including Woiwurrung.

Element from William Thomas’s lexicon that famous phrases from Aboriginal languages together with Woiwurrung.Credit score:Simon Schluter

She feels half-detective, half-linguist, and likens her mission to constructing a jigsaw puzzle through which some items are lacking and should be discovered. However she is keen to do the work.

“All Victorian Indigenous languages are endangered. If somebody doesn’t do the heavy work, our languages gained’t be spoken once more,” she stated.

“I really feel like my language deserves to be handled like a new child child, to be protected and nurtured, and for the primary time in my life I really feel prefer it’s actually do-able, to place it again collectively.”

A significant step was discovering, in an Aboriginal archive, audio tape of a linguist’s 1963 and 1964 interviews with three Wurundjeri elders – Wandin’s nice uncle Frank Wandin and nice aunts Mary and Ellen.

Photo circa 1960 of Brooke Wandin’s great-uncle, Frank Wandin.

Picture circa 1960 of Brooke Wandin’s great-uncle, Frank Wandin.Credit score:Brooke Wandin

The trio grew up on Coranderrk Aboriginal reserve, east of Melbourne, within the late 1800s and early 1900s when the language of their elders, together with William Barak, was suppressed. However within the Nineteen Sixties interviews, they recalled about 100 phrases, similar to phrases for “foot” and “possum”, that they’d picked up as youngsters.

Wandin says the tapes are a valuable legacy.

“Not solely am I capable of piece again collectively one thing that was so violently taken from my ancestors, it’s additionally for my youngsters,” she stated.

She is proud that subsequent 12 months, her granddaughter Addison, 5, would be the first youngster within the household to study Woiwurrung at college.

Wandin is instructing Woiwurrung to her father, Wurundjeri man Allan, 68, and he’s supportive of her database venture.


Woiwurrung was historically spoken in an space stretching from close to Werribee within the west to the Nice Dividing Vary within the north, and from right this moment’s Melbourne CBD to Mount Baw Baw within the east.

Many Woiwurrung phrases are right this moment’s Victorian place names, such because the council Banyule (or banhul) that means “hill’ and Boroondara that means “darkish” or “within the shade”.

Wandin known as on different Aboriginal individuals to use for subsequent 12 months’s spherical of the State Library’s Aboriginal analysis fellowships which shut on September 16.

Earlier than embarking on her personal venture she had the misapprehension that such fellowships have been solely accessible to lecturers.

“All you actually need is a venture and a few ardour and vitality, and off you go,” she stated.

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