A new YouTube series that features puppetry, animation, song and live action is helping keep an ancient Indigenous language alive.

22 September 2020

'Thudaan Diini', or 'Red Road' in the Guugu Yimithirr language, is an innovative series created by the Pama Language Centre, funded through our Indigenous Languages and Arts (ILA) program.

It is a beautifully filmed language immersion YouTube series that is captivating children and families of the Guugu Yimithirr speech community, with its high quality language recordings, memorable characters and fun text. It is also supporting Guugu Yimithirr language literacy and oracy.

Guugu Yimithirr was the first Australian Indigenous language recorded in a word list transcribed by Joseph Banks at Gan-gaarr, (Cooktown) in 1770. This is the Australian language that gave us the word 'kangaroo'—or 'gangurru' in Guugu Yimithirr.

Like most Cape York Peninsula languages, Guugu Yimithirr has been in decline over the past 150 years.

However, this Cape York language is now taking strong steps toward recovery, with the success of projects like 'Thudaan Diini' and Singing Back our Languages, rebuilding intergenerational connections through active involvement of youth in the language of their ancestors.

'Thudaan Diini' is a unique model in the active revitalisation of an endangered language, with eight episodes already available and more being planned.

The next step for the 'Thudaan Diini' team is to apply the successful model to two additional Cape York languages, with episodes in Mpakwithi and Injinoo Ikya planned for the second half of 2020.

Co-written and presented by Guugu Yimithirr language author and experienced language teacher Lillian Bowen OAM, 'Thudaan Diin'i is a rich, informed and rigorous teaching tool, supported by activity sheets on the Guugu Yimithirr Living Library, on the Pama Language Centre website.

The ILA program supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to revive and maintain languages, and to develop and present art.

The United Nations has agreed that more work is needed to protect, revitalise, preserve and promote Indigenous languages and declared the period between 2022 and 2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages. This follows on from the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages, which raised awareness of the importance of language.

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