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The Central Australian Ngumbin-Yapa languages Warlpiri and Gurindji feature in this entry, together with obituaries for a Nyamal lawman, and an anthropologist who studied Maori oral literature.

Thanks to Trevor Scroop, we learned of the classes in the Central Australian language Warlpiri at Hampstead Primary School in Greenacres, South Australia. They were featured on ABC "Behind the news" today (12/9/06). From the website it looks as though you might catch the program again (and hear some Warlpiri) this Wednesday at 10.30am on ABC TV, and on ABC 2
on Thursday at 5.30pm, and Saturday at 9am. There is a worksheet to accompany the program, with some handsome pictures of the children, and a Warlpiri word-list (carp carp, a couple of spelling errors on the worksheet such as dimma for shoulder). But since, as far as I know, this is being done without access to resources such as the Warlpiri Dictionary, or backup from a teacher-linguist, it's impressive.

So the unusual and brave decision taken a few years ago by some Warlpiri parents to send their children to board in Adelaide and attend state schools has resulted in the kids trying to maintain Warlpiri (see comment on an earlier blog ). Wonderful!

Warlpiri's neighbour, the Victoria River District Australian language Gurindji, is the language of the week on Anggarrgoon - good to see!

Some passings

Peter Coppin, a senior Nyamal man, has died. He was one of the leaders in the strike by Aboriginal pastoral workers in the Pilbara between 1946 and 1949 - evocatively described by Don McLeod (1984. How the West was lost : the native question in the development of Western Australia: The author). This led to the establishment of Strelley School, the oldest Independent Aboriginal Community School still operating in Australia - which set up a language education program in Nyangumarta. More about Coppin's life can be found in an interview on ABC Messagestick, and in a book: Read, Jolly and Coppin, Peter. 1999. Kangkushot : the life of Nyamal lawman Peter Coppin: Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra.

The obituary of Margaret Orbell appeared in the New Zealand Herald. She was an anthropologist who learned Maori and documented many Maori stories, poetry and songs (1978 Maori poetry : an introductory anthology Heinemann Educational. 1985 with G. Moon, The natural world of the Maori: Collins. 1985 Hawaiki : a new approach to Maori tradition: University of Canterbury. 1991 Waiata : Maori songs in history : an anthology: Reed. 1995 The illustrated encyclopedia of Maori myth and legend: Canterbury University Press. 1979 with M. McLean, Traditional songs of the Maori: Auckland University Press).

I was struck by a remark in the obituary "New Zealand's libraries contain the largest collections of indigenous writing in the world and Orbell made it her life's work to bring as much as possible to public attention." This fine collection probably stems from Governor George Grey's work in the late nineteenth century - he was a keen supporter of public libraries, and a collector of Maori oral literature. It is good to see that this work continued. [Some time I shall blog more about George Grey - an extraordinary, intelligent person whose great energy produced both great good and great harm.]

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