• Respected elder Ollie George scores Male Elder of the Year Award at NAIDOC for his efforts to preserve Aboriginal language and culture. (NITV News)
The focus of NAIDOC 2017 is the importance of Languages. Mount Magnet Elder Ollie George is one of the last people living that can speak Badimia and he's talked his way to the top, winning 'Elder of the Year Award.
By
Laura Morelli

3 Jul 2017 - 10:18 AM  UPDATED 3 Jul 2017 - 10:37 AM

Ngalimi Badimaya irra guwaga Badimaya barnagga.

That means we’re sitting here on Badimaya country speaking Badimaya language. 

Respected Mount Magnet Elder Ollie George is one of the last people living that can speak Badimia - an endangered Aboriginal language.

He grew up on Kirkalocka and Wydgee Stations with his Nanna and Popa speaking Badimaya language, and learning about his traditional Badimaya culture, but now he says it's a culture that's dying out.

 

"Nobody spoke my language, only me. I didn’t have anyone to talk to because all my brothers and sisters had passed on. I didn’t feel right, nobody wanted to come up and talk to me," he said.

"When I look back I’m proud because it’s my language and I’m not scared to speak my language."

"When other people had their language in different places and a lot of them still speak it but our one, I’m the only one that speaks it." 

Around 250 languages were spoken in Australia at the time of European colonization but only 100 are still currently spoken and only 20 of them are being taught to the next generation.  

This year the annual NAIDOC Week theme is celebrating the importance, resilience and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. The focus is: Our Languages Matter. As such it was fitting to see Mount Magnet Elder Ollie receive NAIDOC's Male Elder of the year award.

He along with the Badimia people and the Bundiyarra-Irra Wangga Language Centre worked hard to create a new Badimaya Dictionary, to preserve culture and language that can be shared across generations.

"People asked me to write a book about where I’ve been working and all this, so I did it in language and it’s come to be a big thing," he said.

“There is currently a wave of activity, with people in many communities working to learn more about their language, and to ensure they are passed on to the next generation before it is too late."

"When I look back I’m proud of that really because it’s my language and I’m not scared to speak my language. A lot of people in my town won't speak it. It’s gone they reckon. But It’s not gone for me, I’ve still got it there."

Talking in language, Ollie says he is proud to be able to share his knowledge with future generations. 

Our Languages Matter

National NAIDOC Committee Co-Chair, Anne Martin, says languages are the breath of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the theme will raise awareness of the status and importance of Indigenous languages across the country.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait languages are not just a means of communication, they express knowledge about everything:  law, geography, history, family and human relationships, philosophy, religion, anatomy, childcare, health, caring for country, astronomy, biology and food," she said. 

“Each language is associated with an area of land and has a deep spiritual significance and it is through their own languages, that Indigenous nations maintain their connection with their ancestors, land and law.” 

Committee Co-Chair Benjamin Mitchell hopes that the theme will shine a spotlight on the programs and community groups working to preserve, revitalise or record Indigenous languages, and encourage all Australians to notice the use of Indigenous languages in their community.

“There is currently a wave of activity, with people in many communities working to learn more about their language, and to ensure they are passed on to the next generation before it is too late," Mr Mitchell said.

"The preservation and revitalisation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages - the original languages of this nation - is the preservation of priceless treasure, not just for Indigenous peoples, but for everyone."

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