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Wurundjeri cultural educator Mandy Nicholson; Survival Day Belgrave 2016. (John Weeks)

"Culture is the tree and language is the roots of the tree," says Mandy Nicholson. "If you chop the roots off then culture dies." She is one of many helping lead the the revival of the Woiwurrung language from Kulin Nation.

Kirstyn Lindsay
Published on
Tuesday, August 15, 2017 - 17:56
File size
6.6 MB
14 min 23 sec

Wurundjeri woman Mandy Nicholson is currently a PHD Candidate at Deakin University. The focus of her studies is "Connection to country, when off country."

She says she didn’t grow up learning her language - her language journey started when she was 18-years-old.

"Learning my language completed the void I had in my life."

Mandy worked as a cultural officer at Galeena Beek Living Culture Centre in Healesville and found a book which featured the writing of the Woiwurrung language. She started to learn a few words and from there, language become part of her life.

When starting her talks in language she pays her respects to her ancestors - and this respect shines through in how she teaches her children and other family members in respecting their culture, traditions, themselves and others.

"Learning my language completed the void I had in my life," Wurundjeri educator Mandy Nicholson tells NITV Radio.

More on the people of the Kulin Nation and the Tanderrum Ceremony
Tanderrum revives an ancient ceremony that celebrates the people of the Kulin Nation

Boon Wurrung Elder Carolyn Briggs says the Tanderrum Ceremony is about taking control of something that was denied-basic human rights. If people start learning the history of Melbourne, they might understand. 

That was the start of her journey and this continued when she completed her degree in Archaeology and then won a role at the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages.

"From that moment it’s opened up all the possibilities," she says. "The cultural knowledge embedded in language."

"Culture is the tree and language is the roots of the tree. If you chop the roots off then culture dies." 

Mandy creates dances with her language that match up to the songs of the Djirri Djirri Gance Group.

"We’ve created a brand new song for Djirri Djirri the Willy Wagtail, it’s full of the cultural connections of this spiritual bird."

Listen to the full podcast in the player above to hear how Mandy Nicholson learned to speak her first language.

Know any 4 -18 year olds who are learning a language other than English - in school or at home? They can enter SBS’ National Languages Competition now to win! #SBSRadioNLC17


SBS National Languages Competition 2017

SBS National Languages Competition 2017
"What does learning a language mean to you?" The 2017 National Languages competition premise is to encourage and celebrate a love of learning languages in Australia.