THE Wiradjuri language was heard in the NSW Legislative Assembly for the first time on Wednesday night, with the consent of the Dubbo Aboriginal Community Working Party.
Member for Dubbo Troy Grant practised the language with Dianne McNaboe for months leading up to the speech covered by Indigenous and other media.
The exercise was driven by the politician’s desire to pay his respects to the language and “all those people who have preserved it”.
It also acknowledged the “leading efforts on Indigenous language” happening in his electorate with the support of the state’s first Aboriginal language and cultural “nest” and courses run by schools and Charles Sturt University (CSU).
Mr Grant believes the resurgence of the Wiradjuri language has the ability to build “Aboriginal identity, pride and community resilience” that in turn will lift “school attendance and retention rates” among Indigenous students.
NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Victor Dominello launched the North West Wiradjuri Language and Cultural Nest at the Yarradamarra Centre of TAFE Western’s Dubbo College in October 2013.
“Revitalising language and culture will help younger and older Aboriginal people to learn traditional languages, both within their communities and in schools,” the minister said.
“This will help build identity, self-esteem and pride. Proud young people want to go to school, and proud parents want their kids to do well at school.”
“Revitalising language and culture will help younger and older Aboriginal people to learn traditional languages, both within their communities and in schools"
In his speech last night Mr Grant told of eight primary schools and five high schools in the Dubbo electorate teaching the Wiradjuri language and CSU offering a graduate certificate covering the Wiradjuri language, culture and heritage.
He also named Ms McNaboe and Uncle Stan Grant as among the individuals who had ensured the Wiradjuri language lived on.
The start and finish of the speech were delivered in Wiradjuri, and the body in English, with Mr Grant translating when need be.
“It’s very difficult to convert English to Wiradjuri,” Mr Grant said.
“We couldn’t easily convert a whole speech.”
Mr Grant ensured that Hansard had a copy of the speech before he rose to his feet.
His diary for March 26 included another lesson with a “patient” Ms McNaboe.
“I want to do a good job of it, do it respectfully,” he said.
The minister’s office and Mr Grant understood that his use of the Wiradjuri language was a first for the Parliament.
Mr Grant sought and gained the approval of the Dubbo Aboriginal Community Working Party, Elders, traditional owners and Aboriginal parliamentarian, Member for Canterbury Linda Burney, to make the speech.
The Wiradjuri Nation extends from the Blue Mountains in the east to Hay in the west, Nyngan in the north and Albury in the south.