School students have named the Australian Antarctic Division's newest icebreaker.

24 May 2019

RSV Nuyina was selected as the name for Australia's new icebreaker from around 800 entries by school children, in a nation-wide competition run by the Australian Antarctic Division.

Significantly for the International Year of Indigenous Languages, more than 20 per cent of the suggested names by Australian children were Aboriginal words.

The word nuyina is from Palawa Kani, the revived form of Tasmanian Aboriginal languages, and means 'southern lights'. It is pronounced 'noy-yee-nah'.

The Southern Lights, also known as Aurora Australis, are an atmospheric phenomenon formed over Antarctica that reaches northwards to light up Australian—and particularly Tasmanian—skies.

Nuyina celebrates the long connection Tasmanian Aboriginal people have with the Southern Lights, since the last ice age.

It also continues a tradition of Australian Antarctic ship names inspired by the Southern Lights. Australia's long-serving icebreaker is the RSV Aurora Australis and Douglas Mawson's historic ship was the SY Aurora.

Palawa Kani combines words from around 16 original Tasmanian Aboriginal languages, as many words from the original languages have been lost.

Of the estimated original 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in Australia, only around 120 are still spoken.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Palawa Kani Language Program, established in the 1990s, was among the first in the country to work towards preserving an Indigenous language.

In line with the protocols required for non-Indigenous people to use a Palawa Kani word, the Australian Antarctic Division received formal approval from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation to use the word nuyina to name the new icebreaker.

The winning school students were from St Virgil's College, Hobart, and Secret Harbour Primary School, near Perth. Their prize was an educational excursion to Antarctica in 2017 as part of the Australian Antarctic Program.

The 'RSV Nuyina' is currently under construction in Romania, and due to arrive in Australia in 2020.

Photo credit: Graphic by Serco/AAD

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