Bringing Back Native Language at Kubirri Aged Care Centre
National NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia in the first week of July each year to celebrate and recognise the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as is written on the NAIDOC Week website.
Last year in Mossman, Far North Queensland, Kubirri Aged Care Centre resident and Aboriginal Elder Auntie Claire opened the Elders lunch held during NAIDOC Week with a prayer and this year, the Elders Lunch also included a pampering session and those attending got their nails done.
Auntie Claire is originally from the Daintree on the north-east coast of Queensland, but she moved to Mossman when she was about fourteen years old. “I was born on the riverbank of the Daintree River,” she says.
“In Mossman Gorge and Daintree, we all speak in one language,” Auntie Claire goes on to say. “My language is called Kuku Yalanji. I speak in my language, and I sing in my language, and I’m teaching my kids too.” Auntie Claire’s Sister and Brother are Kubrri residents who also speak Kuku Yalanji. “It’s very important to my People to speak in my language,” Auntie Claire says.
“We're starting to bring our language back; learn our language, because since European contact, the language was lost,” Eileen, who works as a Cleaner in the Laundry at Kubirri, explains. “You know, back then in those days, you weren’t allowed to speak your language. But now, because things are changing; it’s taking a while, but it’s changing.”
Eileen states that some of the Elders were involved with teaching the language at the primary school to enable the kids to understand and keep the culture strong. When they get older, they can pass their language skills down to their own children. “Language is so important for our daily lives,” she says. “Without the Elders, we wouldn’t understand our language.”
Auntie Claire goes on to say: “We all have to stick together. The old people taught me when I was small, when I was five years old. When you learn your language, you never forget.”
Auntie Claire has been teaching the residents and staff at the Centre a few words in Kuku Yalanji, like the word for “butterfly” or for “food,” the Centre’s Lifestyle Coordinator, Maria explains. “It is important to understand some of the words that will help us work effectively with our [Aboriginal] residents as well to be able to communicate their needs.”
Kubirri Aged Care Centre’s NAIDOC Week celebrations this year also included a flag raising ceremony and the painting of boomerangs which were used to also decorate the Centre’s bus. The theme for the week was Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!