A QUEENS Park-based Aboriginal group is fighting to preserve the Nyoongar language.
The language appears in Western Australian culture, and is featured on street signs, place names and during Welcome to Country ceremonies.
However, Nyoongar Language Program interim chairman Joe Collard said such references were not understood and the language was slowly dying out.
“Names like Joondalup and Dwellingup – these are our place names that have wonderful histories,” he said.
“So many place names across the South-West derive from Nyoongar words, which have associated stories. We could offer these stories to people.”
Mr Collard said he was concerned with the low number of fluent Nyoongar language speakers.
“There is not a school in Perth that is a solely Nyoongar language school,” he said.
“The language is almost dead and gone now.
“We want to create a training centre so people can access Nyoongar language and go on to teach it,”
Mr Collard said the group last week joined with the Beananging Kwuurt Institute, an Aboriginal community service organisation that runs Sister Kate’s.
“We need to set it up ourselves; we can’t wait for the government,” he said.
“The system is letting our kids down. Our retention rate in high schools is falling by the wayside and Aboriginal people are not getting what they need from the system, which is our language.”
Indigenous Affairs Minister Peter Collier, in a letter to Mr Collard, said there was “currently no scope to fund the delivery of a Nyoongar language program”. He said the government supported Nyoongar language through a number of community organisations.
However, the group has bigger plans to create a Nyoongar Language Centre by 2014 and Language Nests (accredited language training courses at universities and Tafes) by next year.
“This centre will enable people to become trainers in Nyoongar language and this way we can support the language,” Mr Collard said.
He said the group’s next step would be to secure private funding from universities and mining corporations to do a feasibility study.
“We love the English language but that is not the point,” he said.
“We’ve got to keep our identity and our language.
“Through language, people can have an identity.”