Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that this website may contain

the names and images of people who have passed away

Aboriginal Languages of the Pilbara

 

Introduction

On the Wangka Maya T-shirts are two slogans. Firstly is the phrase “Keeping Our Traditional Ways Strong”. This is the core value of Wangka Maya’s Vision Statement, whether it is in language, history or culture. On the back of the T-shirt is a list of all the Aboriginal languages of the Pilbara and the phrase “Use Them Or Lose Them”. This understanding is the main driving force behind the language program. Recording traditional languages is vital for the continued use of languages both now and in the future.

 

There are three areas of focus for Wangka Maya’s development of resources to support the use of languages in the community. Stage One is the recording and collection of the words, grammar and stories, histories and songs of a language. These are the basic elements from which a language and its culture are built. If these are recorded, then the data recorded can be used for either reconstructing the language later on, or in the development of resources for stage two. Stage Two is the development of resources for the use of the language community. These include the production of wordlists and dictionaries, grammar books, history and story books, maps, charts, music CD ROMS and video. Stage Three is the development of services that improve the interaction with the wider community. This includes interpreter and translation services, and support for school or higher education language programs.

 

Each year, the Wangka Maya Board of Directors determines the projects that fit in with the organisation's Vision Statement. When they make decisions about future projects they take into account advice from the senior linguist on the degree of endangerment of the language, work already completed and requests received at the language centre for new resources. This information is compiled in the Language Inventory. The level of interest and commitment within the language community is also very important, particularly if there are speakers wishing to work with Wangka Maya to record their languages.

 

In Wangka Maya's early years of work, the Board decided to focus on languages that were in danger of disappearing in the near future, that is, languages with only a few elderly speakers left. The focus was on ensuring that there was enough material recorded in these languages to enable their reconstruction at a later date, if their families wish to do so in the future. This work continues today and there is much more recording, transcribing and linguistic analysis to be completed.

 

In recent years, there has been increasing community interest in developing resources for children to enable them to learn the language. So Wangka Maya is now also working on the development of storybooks, games and resources for young learners and on supporting schools and other organisations that promote language use.

 

Wangka Maya Resources

Wangka Maya acts as a resource centre for the Aboriginal communities of the Pilbara. Resources can be accessed by community members at our South Hedland office or by contacting us. Please note that some materials are subject to restrictions.

 

Print and audio-visual material that’s been published (such as books, CDs and DVDs) is available from our on-line store. For more information about the unpublished material held in our database, contact the senior linguist at yakuli@wangkamaya.org.au . For more information about particular Pilbara languages, choose a language from the list in the left hand column.

 

Click here to download Wangka Maya brochure about 'Spelling, Reading and Writing Pilbara's Indigenous languages'