Blog: Kangaroo blood and salt tears

There's blood on my shoes and all around me the skins of roos are being wrenched off their thick tails.

We have just popped out to buy lunch.

I'm standing in a Kangaroo abattoir on the outskirts of Port Augusta, South Australia, with Bangala elders Steve and Harry, who have promised me a barbecue lunch.

We are taking a break from filming as they participate in a language reclamation workshop run by renowned Israeli linguist Ghil'ad Zuckermann.

A specialist in endangered language, The Oxford and Cambridge-trained professor himself speaks the reclaimed language of Hebrew.

Bangala was once spoken right across the Eyre Peninsula, and being a seaside people, the Bangala had numerous words for shark, just like the Inuit people of North America have many words for snow.

But colonisation and forced adoption has seen the decline of Bangala as members of the Stolen Generation were taken to missions where speaking in language was sometimes harshly discouraged.

Nowadays, only the elders remember a few words, snippets of a time before time.

Which brings us to the Umeewarra mission just down the road.

The asbestos-filled mission has now fallen into ruin, with smashed windows and boarded-up doors.

A whole group of elders lead me through the condemned dormitories, pointing out places where their memories coalesce into little pools of sadness.

We stop and Steve tells me how his mother was beaten in the laundry.

Tears roll from his cheeks and he says he wishes he had the words to describe how he feels.

There are many words for sharks, but not nearly enough for sadness.

Andy Park's report for SBS News will also appear on Living Black and NITV.

Source SBS

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