Indigenous Australians urge preservation of native languages in Taiwan

Taipei-Two indigenous women from Australia are in Taiwan for a weeklong visit to raise awareness of the preservation of indigenous languages as part of the Australian government's celebration of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.

At a luncheon hosted by the Australian Office in Taipei Friday, Joyce Bonner and Leonora Adidi shared their stories on their struggle to preserve indigenous languages with the audience, which included members of Taiwan's Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) and the diplomatic community.

Bonner, a member of the Narawi tribe, and Adidi, a Torres Strait Islander, are founders of "Yamani: Voice of an Ancient Land," which aims to bring indigenous languages into families and communities through song.

After their arrival in Taiwan Nov. 3, they performed at the 4th World Conference of Women's Shelters in Kaohsiung and visited several academic institutions, indigenous tribes and cultural organizations in different parts of Taiwan, and discovered cultural connections between Taiwan and the Australian state of Queensland, where they are both from.

Indigenous communities in both places share traditions such as respect for elders, the way food is prepared, a love for singing and dancing, and many other aspects of daily life, Adidi told CNA in an interview after the event.

She lauded the Taiwan government's attention to indigenous affairs, including the establishment of the CIP and the enacting of laws that look after the welfare and needs of indigenous peoples, which she said the Australian government can emulate.

she noticed that Taiwan has also learned from Australia, such as an official apology President Tsai Ing-wen (???) made to Taiwan's indigenous population in 2016 for centuries of injustice, after the Australian government made a similar move eight years earlier.

Asked what the Taiwan government can do to further promote indigenous languages, the two suggested an increase in visibility, such as using native words on roadsigns in indigenous communities.

Bonner, who is also the author of numerous children's books in her native Butchulla language, said children should be provided with immersive learning environments and taught native languages from a young age in a fun way, so that they can be motivated.

Bonner also told the audience about the difficulties in collecting knowledge and histories of different tribal clans in her homeland, because most of them are oral and not written down. She urged collective efforts by the government, academic and civil sectors to join hands in saving indigenous languages for their descendants.

They are two of the many indigenous people invited by the Australian government to travel outside the country and raise awareness of the crucial role of indigenous languages, in celebration of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Asked why Taiwan was chosen as their destination, the duo said it was because of the geographic proximity, similar historical backgrounds in which indigenous languages were once suppressed by the authorities, and Taiwan's vibrant lifestyle and cultural diversity.

They will conclude their Taiwan tour after giving lectures at an exhibition titled "Old Masters: Australia's Great Bark Artists" at the National Taiwan Museum on Saturday.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel