Some of the country’s brightest and most innovative Indigenous youth will compete to develop the best new app-based technology to revitalise Indigenous languages.

7 August 2019

The driving force behind the two-day hackathon, INDIGI HACK, is Luke Briscoe, founder and CEO of the award-winning tech company INDIGI LAB.

‘INDIGI HACK will be the first of its kind and hopefully the first of many,’ Luke said. ‘This year the focus is on youth, technology and language, linking to the International Year of Indigenous Languages.’

INDIGI HACK runs from 8-9 August in Sydney and it is still possible for interested youths to enter a team by emailing info [at] indigihack.com.au.

‘The idea is to get together a bunch of young, innovative thinkers to look at different ways to use technology to preserve our Indigenous languages,’ Luke said.

‘Technology in the language space needs to be more targeted to the specific audience. For example, if we want kids to have buy in we have to remember they are miles ahead of us when it comes to tech. So let’s empower them with the tools to develop programs and projects that are engaging to them. Let them take risks and see what they can come up with.’

During the two-day hackathon in the lead up to Science Week the participants, aged between 8 and 18, will also be asked to develop a framework to manage cultural knowledge.

Luke is a proud Kuku Yalanji man, from the Daintree region in far north Queensland. He didn’t grow up learning language and felt a loss of connection to his people. He became more interested as he got older and started to learn from his Uncle.

‘I now know Yalanji 200 words and every day I try to learn a new one. I keep reminding myself to use language because it’s important globally to preserve our Indigenous languages and cultures.’

Australia is home to some of the oldest languages in the world and many of those are at risk.

‘Youth are a vital part in the continuation of Indigenous language, so we need to empower them to become culture leaders and language speakers.

‘I strongly believe Indigenous-led technology is the way forward. It’s inherently sustainable.

‘Take the returning boomerang for example. It influenced the propeller in the aviation, maritime and space sectors. NASA’s new drone is in the shape of boomerang.

‘We now know that the science behind the returning boomerang was due to observing the plants in motion over vast periods of time. Some returning boomerangs are over 50,000 years-old so there is a strong link between language, technology and the natural world which even modern science are only now understanding.

‘We want to harness this potential and do something positive for our communities and preserving our languages holds the vital thread to ensure we don’t lose this knowledge that has sustained our planet for thousands of years.’

The winning hacker will go into an incubator to further develop and refine their product.

‘We’ve had great support, including from UNESCO and the education sector, but it would be great to get more companies and businesses from the corporate sector on board as well.’

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