TV helps Aboriginal language revival

By Courtenay Rule 7 November 2013
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A new Aboriginal language TV program for kids begins.

HERE’S A STATISTIC I find pretty sobering: of more than 200 Indigenous languages spoken on the Australian continent before European settlement, fewer than 20 are still in daily use, and even these are endangered. 

Once a people’s language dies out, a vital part of their culture and identity is lost forever. That’s why it’s great to hear about Waabiny Time, a new show on the National Indigenous Television channel, which aims to get kids started with learning and using the Noongar language of south-west Western Australia.

Waabiny Time (meaning “playing time”) is the first Australian indigenous language program made for an early childhood audience, and so far it’s been a great success. The original 13-episode series, which first aired in April, was so popular that it’s currently being repeated, and a new series is being planned.

Aimed at kids aged between three and six, each half-hour episode focuses on a specific theme – such as family and friends, animals, food and drink, seasons and weather – and introduces 10 to 15 new words in the Noongar language. There are also regular features such as “Sand Yarning” (story time with drawings in the sand), visits to Noongar schools and communities, and a concluding song that reviews the words learned in that episode.

Producer Cath Trimboli says that the language is the most important part of the show. “Learning Noongar words enables kids to become part of a rich culture that for too long hasn’t given enough value to language,” she says.

As the program’s website explains, the larger goal is to celebrate and encourage pride in that heritage by “merg[ing] traditional and contemporary Noongar culture to create a world that the young audience can relate to, and one that they feel comfortable participating in.”

Sounds djooradiny (fun)!

Waabiny Time airs Monday to Friday, 9:30 am EST on National Indigenous Television (available via satellite or cable TV).

Courtenay Rule is a former intern and regular contributor to Australian Geographic.

Noongar language Wikipedia page