On 22 April, on a beautiful sunny day in Kalbarri, the Nhanda Alphabet Poster was launched on the town’s foreshore with people from across the state – and the world – coming together to enjoy the event.
The Nhanda Alphabet poster was created by the Bundiyarra-Irra Wangga Language Centre in Geraldton as a resource to preserve the disappearing Nhanda language, the last full speakers having sadly been lost years ago.
The Nhanda language was once spoken along a coastal strip 20-100km wide, extending from the country of the mighty Murchison River, the food bowl of many Nhanda people, all the way to the region around present-day Geraldton.
Nhanda Elder, Jacko Whitby, performed the Welcome to Country, and said it was an honour to be on land the Nhanda people have lived and hunted on for thousands of years.
“It is an honour to be here on this special day to be part of the launch of the first steps in recording and saving the Nhanda language,” he said. “It is a language which was spoken so strong by our old people and still is used
in content by some Nhanda people today.”
Nhanda woman and Kalbarri local,Jenny Clayton, made an emotional speech and said it was a proud moment for all Nhanda people to come together to celebrate the launch of the poster and other resources.
“I am very privileged and honoured to be here, I’ve got shivers up my spine, I never thought it would happen, it’s been five years in the making,” she said. “Most of our elders, the speakers of our language, have long since passed away, taking with them knowledge of the Nhanda language.
“Our last known speaker of the language was Elder Aunty Lucy Ryder, who along with her daughter Violet’s help, made recordings and a word list of the Nhanda language.
“Our language has been a dying language for a long time, and without your language, you have no identity. It gives our Nhanda people a proper sense of belonging. It is who we are,” said Jenny.
Language centre Coordinator, Jenny Kniveton-Gregory, said the poster may only be a small thing, but it’s a big thing for community.
“The focus over the next two years is to get a Nhanda dictionary compiled,” she said. “And then we will visit schools to talk language.”
Nhanda woman, Colleen Drage, and her father, Clayton Drage, have been instrumental in assisting the Bundiyarra- Irra Wangga Language Centre to work on the Nhanda language, with Colleen officially launching the alphabet poster. “Language is an important part of our lives, and it has been wonderful working with the language centre; I can’t name too many who can speak the language,” she said.
Colleen acknowledged Linguist, Rosie Sitorus, for the big part she has played in recording the language, and thanked other language centre staff, Leeann Merritt, Godfrey Simpson and Jenny Kniveton-Gregory.
“I’m speechless, I didn’t think today would come off,” she said.
Rosie Sitorus said this is the first Nhanda language resource in a long time. “It is wonderful to have community support for the work. Language work can be slow and difficult, even with full speakers, so to have community members embracing the work the language centre is doing is both encouraging and incredibly important in making sure that future resources are also delivered,” she said.
“This poster is the third in a series of alphabet posters produced by the language centre, following on from Wajarri and Badimaya.
“As a resource they are very versatile, because their use can be as an educational tool, or as a decorative addition to any home or workplace, or a way of introducing young children to their language – and it’s through those children that the language will survive into the future,” said Rosie.
Contact Bundiyarra-Irra Wangga Language Centre on 9920 7900 for more information.