Working to Revitalise Miriwoong at the Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring

Brandon Wiltshire

PhD Candidate, College of Indigenous Futures, Education, and the Arts, Charles Darwin University

Since the 1970s in Australia, efforts to maintain and revitalise Indigenous languages around the country have significantly increased. These efforts are generally facilitated by Indigenous language centres and community organisations. In the 1970s, Miriwoong elders became increasingly concerned with language loss in the community. As a result, they founded the Mirima Council to document and revitalise the Miriwoong language. Miriwoong is a critically endangered language spoken by the Miriwoong people located in the northwest of Australia, spanning an area that includes parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

In 1991, the Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring (MDWg) Language and Culture Centre was founded in Kununurra, Western Australia. Today, MDWg is considered as one of the most successful language centres across Australia, engaging in many documentation and revitalisation activities such as resource creation, book publishing, Miriwoong radio programs, master-apprentice sessions, and the Miriwoong Language Nest. The Language nest teaches Miriwoong to the children of Kununurra and reaches over 400 students per week. MDWg has also released two mobile app – a dictionary and a language learning app.

In this talk, I will discuss my time at MDWg, from beginning as an intern, facilitating the Language Nest, and now conducting research for my PhD. I will talk about the organisational structure of MDWg, daily life at the centre, details on revitalisation activities, as well as the difficulties of running a language centre and revitalising an Indigenous language in remote Australia. After that, I will give a summary of my current research which aims to gain a deeper understanding of how language revitalisation programs achieve their outcomes and assess whether such programs align with the aspirations of local communities.

Thursday, 16th December, 2021