Two Australian women spent a week in Taiwan to raise awareness about indigenous languages as part of the Australian government’s celebration of the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
At a luncheon hosted by the Australian Office in Taipei on Friday, Joyce Bonner and Leonora Adidi shared stories of their work to preserve indigenous languages with the audience, which included members of the Council of Indigenous Peoples and the diplomatic community.
Bonner, a member of the Narawi people, and Adidi, a Torres Strait Islander, are founders of Yamani: Voice of an Ancient Land, which aims to revive indigenous languages among families and communities through song.
After their arrival in Taiwan on Sunday last week, they sang at the Fourth World Conference of Women’s Shelters in Kaohsiung and visited academic institutions, Aboriginal communities and cultural organizations.
Indigenous communities in both nations share traditions such as respect for elders, the way food is prepared, a love for singing and dancing, and many other aspects of daily life, Adidi said.
She lauded the Taiwanese government’s attention to Aboriginal affairs, including the establishment of the council and laws that protect the welfare and needs of Aborigines.
The Australian government can emulate those things, Adidi said.
Taiwan has also learned from Australia, as shown by an official apology President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) made in 2016 to Taiwan’s Aboriginal population for centuries of injustice.
The Australian government made a similar move eight years ago.
Asked what Taiwan can do to further promote indigenous languages, the two women suggested an increase in visibility, such as using Aboriginal words on roadsigns in indigenous communities.
Bonner, who has written numerous children’s books in her native Butchulla language, said children should have immersive learning environments and fun lessons in native languages that motivate them from a young age.
There are many difficulties in collecting knowledge and histories from groups in her homeland, as most of them are purely oral, Bonner said.
The governments, academics and the civil sector should work together to save indigenous languages, she said.
Bonner and Adidi were among many people sponsored by the Australian government to travel overseas to raise awareness of the crucial role of indigenous languages this year.
They said that they chose Taiwan because of its proximity, similar history of government suppression of indigenous languages, and the nation’s vibrant lifestyle and cultural diversity.
They departed yesterday.
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