Ya tawatja (hello)
Recently, I had the great fortune to attend the official launch of the in language episodes of Little J and Big Cuz at the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre in Launceston, Tasmania.
For me, as a Palawa woman, it was a very special moment. It was the first time I was hearing Palawa Kani and connecting with culture through language. This is far from unique to Tasmanian Aboriginal people, and there are far too many Indigenous nations that have gone through a long period where their languages have been sleeping or lost.
This is the place where my grandfather was born and his Aboriginal mother before him.
Palawa Kani is a language reconstruction project of the different Indigenous dialects within Tasmania; and to hear it being spoken openly by adults and children was so empowering.
My dad’s family come from the far southeast corner of Tasmania – Eaglehawk Neck, which is about an hour from Hobart and close to Port Arthur. This is the place where my grandfather was born and his Aboriginal mother before him.
Within our family there is much cultural knowledge that has been lost and we are still connecting the dots in our family to make sense of our identity. While we claim Palawa heritage, the specific Palawa nation to which we belong eludes us. We think it most likely either Nuenonne or Mouheneenner but confirmation is still a fair way off.
Like what we see echoed in our past across the country, Tasmania’s history with the Indigenous people is bleak. Most Australians have likely not heard of The Black War – a war the United Nations claim should be described as genocide. In fact many well-known historians have commented on the Tasmanian Aboriginal community as an example of an entire race that became extinct in the wake of British colonisation.
We are not extinct.
As a result of our history over the past 220 years, many Palawa people have had a fragmented link to our identity. My grandfather fought for our country in the Second World War but did felt compelled to do so as a “dark-skinned” Anglo.
With his two sons, he never discussed their heritage and he died never having reclaimed the pride of his Aboriginality. While he exposed them to Aboriginal culture through stories and bushcraft, the truth remained hidden. It is this history that has resulted in the difficulty in finding cultural connection points for our people and the trans-generational trauma that comes with a loss of culture and identity.
Our history has allowed us to be disconnected to our culture and identity for far too long. We are not extinct. We are reclaiming our culture and our identity through one of the most powerful tools – Speaking our language.
As a part of NITV's NAIDOC 2017 coverage, we are broadcasting Little J & Big Cuz in language every afternoon at 4:30pm. You can also catch-up with all the episodes On Demand.