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Media Release
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders
Greg Hunt MP

14 September 2005

Kakadu staff develop Aboriginal language skills

Kakadu has made a giant step forward in joint management with the introduction of a course in the Gundjeihmi language, Greg Hunt MP, Parliamentary Secretary with ministerial responsibility for Kakadu National Park said today.

"Gundjeihmi is one of several languages spoken in Kakadu and is the main language for the central part of the park," Mr Hunt said.

"More than 20 Kakadu staff have just finished a basic course which was developed and delivered with the help of Yvonne Margarula, senior Mirrar traditional owner."

The course was run by local linguist Murray Garde in association with the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Association.

"This course is one of the products of a huge amount of work over many years to develop a Gundjeihmi dictionary. It's one way to ensure that the language survives into the future," Murray Garde said

"Tragically many local Aboriginal languages are either extinct or heading towards extinction."

Kakadu's Northern Operations Manager Marcus Sandford said that learning Gundjeihmi was a real challenge.

"It requires a whole new range of tongue positions in the mouth to make the sounds accurately - it's quite hard to do for an English speaking person. But we've all managed to learn some basic phrases that rangers are practising with our Aboriginal colleagues at work each day," Mr Sandford said.

"Local Bininj are keen for us to learn and enjoy seeing us have a go."

Several tour guides and some local Bininj teenagers also attended the course - and the response has been so enthusiastic that more courses are planned.

"We hope that the course will be the beginning of a larger language program for staff and local Aboriginal youth which will be run over the long term in partnership with the Gundjehmi Aboriginal Association. In this way we can help keep the language alive," Mr Hunt said.

"Traditional owners are thrilled to see this sharing and protection of culture. They see it as real step forward in managing the World Heritage values of the park," Marcus Sandford said.

Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park has also introduced formal language courses this year. In July ten staff attended a beginner's course in Pitjantjatjara run by the Institute of Aboriginal Development. There will be a second course in November and a more advanced course next year.

Media enquiries:
Fiona Murphy 0423 577 045 (Mr Hunt's office)

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