Languages conference keeping culture strong

WITH the 800 or so First Nations languages in Australia expected to have no fluent speakers within 50 years – unless there is urgent action, and the launch Australia’s Action Plan for the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, this year’s PULiiMA Indigenous Languages and Technology Conference was massive. 

Over 900 languages workers, speakers, teachers, linguistics and others from across the continent and world gathered on Larrakia Country (Gulumerrdjin people of Darwin) for the conference, which celebrates Indigenous excellence and commits to the conservation and revitalisation of Indigenous languages. 

PULiiMA, which means ‘making voice’ in Awabakal language from the traditional people of Newcastle/Lake Macquarie/Lower Hunter region, was founded by Gamilaraay/Wiradjuri man Daryl McKenny, in 2007 with a gathering of 80 people in Newcastle. 

PULiiMA 2023 heard triumphs and challenges in Indigenous language health – from languages spoken as a first language, to those critically threatened, as well as those asleep and those awoken. 

All come with challenges in a world that is increasingly dominated by coloniser languages. 

Senior Larrakia Elder Dr Bilawara Lee, or Aunty B as many know her, welcomed attendees and presented an ‘Introduction to Larrakia’ session describing language as medicine. 

“Many people only experience language as a tool for communication. For us, it is much more,” she said. 

“To speak our language is to be at one with…