During NAIDOC Week we look at how the Erub community, from Darnley Island on the Torres Strait, is harnessing digital resources to protect their critically endangered language.

11 July 2019

Community members use an app developed in conjunction with the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ANLF) to record Erub words, songs and stories. 

The Foundation has held training sessions to assist young and old to use the app. The app is quickly growing in popularity and some locals have even begun to teach the skills they have mastered through holding workshops within communities. 

 ‘Technology is growing every year, using technology is the only way we are going to keep the language alive,’ said Lala Gutchen, a local language facilitator.

‘Even children use phones now. It is something I really want to do…to use technology as a bridge between generations.’

At the end of a one-week workshop more than 1,000 words had been entered into the system and plans are in place to capitalise on the momentum.

Erub community member Kenny Bedford has been a driving force and strategic advisor. 

‘Language is a pillar,’ Kenny said. ‘It’s all about protecting our culture. I’m excited to have a practical tool that we can all use to document language. Then people can teach themselves.’ 

Kenny says the timing of this project during the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages is important, and also while there are Elders who can pass on their knowledge and empower children to learn their own language. 

‘Next year marks 150 years since the missionaries came. That’s not a long time, and we’ve already lost so much. I’m thankful that there are still speakers alive.’

This project is one in a series supported through the ALNF’s Living First Language Platform.

Photo by Naomi Fillmore from the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ANLF). 

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