Walking Our Songlines with Language is a healing journey of reconnection to language for Coota Girls Survivors, their descendants and the broader First Nations community.
For First Nations peoples, language and culture are intrinsically interwoven. First Nations languages are embedded with ancestral knowledge of culture and Country. For Stolen Generations Survivors and their descendants, past policies of forced removal and assimilation have had a devastating impact on the intergenerational sharing and maintaining of First Nations languages. We invite you on our journey of reconnection, to Walk Our Songlines with Language.
From Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation
“For me, reconnection to my culture and language is my responsibility. Not only for my children, but for myself and my community. As a Survivor of forced removals and institutionalisation, my grandmother Aunty Lorraine Darcy Peeters was punished for speaking language and practicing culture as a child. I imagine the Aborigines Protection Act (1909-1969), which sanctioned the forced removal of any First Nations child at any time for any reason, as a wildfire. Its sole purpose was to eradicate all in its path. However, like the trees, our roots are strong and spiritually connected to this land. We have resisted and continue to thrive after the flames. Reclamation and revitalisation of our Language is an integral part of this regrowth process. This project has been so incredibly healing.”
– Meagan Gerrard (Wailwan and Gamilaroi),
Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation, Project and Communications Manager
In 1912, the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls (1912-1969) was established on Wiradjuri Land as a training institution for First Nations girls who had been forcibly removed from their families and communities under the Aborigines Protection Act (1909-1969). Once isolated far away from family and community, First Nations girls (as young as 2 years old) were brainwashed and trained to become domestic servants/slaves in wealthy non-First Nations households.
As children, Coota Girls Survivors experienced a process of forced assimilation, systematic racial discrimination designed to remove their First Nations identity and connection to kin, Country and culture. This included facing severe punishment for speaking their first languages or practicing culture in any way.
For First Nations peoples, language and culture are intrinsically linked. First Nations languages are embedded with knowledge of culture, Country, and ancestors. Past policies of forced removal and assimilation have had a devastating impact on the intergenerational sharing and maintaining of First Nations languages.
Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation (CGAC) was founded in 2013 by a courageous group of Coota Girls Survivors. CGAC aims to support Coota Girls Survivors and their descendants to heal from the associated impacts of forced removal and assimilation.
In 2021, CGAC launched Walking Our Songlines with Language Program which aims to deliver range of projects focused on reconnecting Coota Girls Survivors and their descendants with their own language.
You have 24 words to learn in language. Each card has an illustration, the word in English and language translations with phonetic breakdown. Breaking down each word into sound syllables will help you pronounce the new words. For example, in Wiradyuri, Emu is dinawan – pronounced din-uh-one.
You have two of each card and they are divided into categories – People (green), Animals (yellow), Country (blue). This is to help you play the games on the instructions and to create your own games!
Artist Spotlight: Joanne Cassady
As a professional artist, Joanne uses her skills as a means of education for cultural awareness. Joanne’s
artwork telling the story of the girls from the 12 different language groups journeying to Coota Girls Home is close to her heart, with her maternal connections to Coota Girls. Joanne hopes that all descendants can deepen their connection to culture and language through these resources.
“As a winner of the 2017 National NAIDOC poster competition for the theme “Our Languages Matter” and as a descendant of Coota Girls and the Stolen Generations, I was honoured to create an artwork representing the language project. As Aboriginal people and having what was taken from our families, I am truly grateful for our Elders who were able to keep our (Wiradjuri) language alive. I’m grateful we are able to pass this on to the next generation. Taking back what was stolen. Our Voice.”
– Joanne Cassady (Wiradjuri), Balgarra Designs, Founder & Artist
Culture is Life is an Aboriginal-led Not-For-Profit organisation. We believe that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people have the right to thrive and flourish; strong in knowing who they are, where they come from and who they are connected to.
All our efforts deepen young people’s experiences of culture as protection through thoughtfully designed, simple to access and easy to use policies, projects, resources and campaigns.
We join together with others to create meaningful lives for all our young people with a special emphasis on those experiencing vulnerability and who are at risk of self-harm and suicide.
“We are very proud to have worked on such a significant project. Thank you to Culture is Life and Coota Girls for selecting us to work with you on this. We hope to continue to revitalise language and culture, and celebrate our people through this project and more.”
– Mayrah Sonter (Wiradyuri), 33Creative, Director
Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation acknowledges and deeply appreciates the support of the many First Nations Language Speakers and Knowledge Holders who have contributed to the creation of these resources. We express gratitude for giving our Stolen Generations Coota Girls Survivors and descendants and the broader First Nations community the opportunity to reconnect with Language.
Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation recognises and respects Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) rights and acknowledges that all ICIP rights in this resource belong with those First Nations Language Speakers and Knowledge Holders, communities and Language Groups who have shown their support for Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation to include their ICIP in this resource.
We acknowledge the many variations in the spelling, pronunciation and use. Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation does not claim that the language included in these resources represents the only way and we respect and acknowledge that Language Knowledge may differ for each speaker.