VOICE. TREATY. TRUTH
Did you know that before colonisation there were more than 250 language groups in Australia? Going back to 1788, there were 800 dialectal varieties spoken. The sad part to this story, only 13 traditional Indigenous languages are still learnt by children across the country. That’s a lot of voices quietened.
What’s exciting is the current focus on Voice as part of this year’s NAIDOC week theme. For those of you who are unaware, NAIDOC week is held around Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The week is celebrated not just in our First Nations communities but across businesses, government and community groups.
As part of this celebration, it’s fantastic to see organisations such as Qantas leading the way in promoting the heritage of Australia and celebrating the diversity. As I was travelling this month, I stumbled across an easel holding the Indigenous language map in the Qantas lounge. Not only was it great to see the recognition of language, but more importantly, it was beautiful to see the conversation that it stimulated. People from all different walks of life were interested and talking about language. Looking to where they had been and where they were going and discussing the differences. I can only imagine what it would have been like. Mini-countries, all with their unique sound, customs and traditions. What a world it would have been!
It fills me with excitement to know that visitors from near and far are interested in what country they are on. In finding out more and more about the history of our country. Proserpine airport is another leader in this. Working with Traditional Owners to develop a welcome to their country in the recently redeveloped Proserpine airport. As the gateway to the great barrier reef, hundreds of thousands of visitors flock through this area annually. Now they will all know that they are on Gia and Ngaro country.
This connection between council, community and the tourism industry is a great demonstration reconciliation, of partnership and how we can champion the voice of First Nations Peoples.
This point of recognition is a small, but incredibly powerful gesture. It recognises that this isn’t the first time people have followed this path. For many, many years, First Nations Australians have been visiting country for trade and exchange. Now many many more can follow in their footsteps and acknowledge whose land they are now on.