Knowing our Languages: Celebrating the International Year of Indigenous Languages

Paola Balla's Moondani Balluk design: The original design was fitted into the VU triangle logo so that it showed the embodying relationship between the University and Moondani Balluk & the meaning of “embracing people”- being embraced by VU
Tuesday 26 November 2019, 4.30–6pm
370 Little Lonsdale Street, VIC, AU
View map below

Hear Boonwurrung elder N’arweet Carolyn Briggs, Gunditjmara possum cloak maker and multi-media artist Vicki Couzens, Wurundjeri language cultural mentor and artist Mandy Nicholson, and Wiradjuri PhD recipient in Indigenous Oral History Dr Sadie Heckenberg explore the importance of language.

Throughout 2019 the world has been celebrating the International Year of Indigenous Languages, a United Nations General Assembly initiative that raises awareness of the crucial role languages play in people’s daily lives.

In Australia, this acknowledgment is particularly important. Of the estimated original 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, approximately 120 are still spoken. Ninety per cent are endangered.

To mark the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and as 2019 draws to a close, join us for a panel discussion highlighting local community research into Aboriginal languages. 

Moderated by Moondani Balluk’s director, Karen Jackson, the event will explore the community revitalisation of local Aboriginal languages, including their importance to cultural heritage and practice.

Beginning with a performance by the Wangal Dance Group, the evening will focus on a panel discussion between First Peoples, their extensive work on reclaiming, knowing and sharing their language, and the importance of this to their communities. 

This event is proudly presented by Moondani Balluk in partnership with VU in the Community.


N’arweet Carolyn Briggs | Boonwurrung

N'arweet Carolyn Briggs has been involved in developing and supporting opportunities for Indigenous youth and Boonwurrung culture for over 40 years.

In 2005, she established the Boonwurrung Foundation, which aims to restore the language, customs and history of the Boonwurrung people.

Carolyn has worked across numerous communities for over 40 years and is currently completing her Doctorate in Philosophy researching assisting urban indigenous youth to understand indigenous knowledge. She is an elder in residence at RMIT University and Footscray Community Arts Centre.

Vicki Couzens | Gunditjmara 

Vicki, a possum cloak maker and multi-media artist, has worked in the Aboriginal community for more than 35 years in various roles, serving on the boards of Banmirra Aboriginal Arts, Victorian Housing, Koorie Heritage Trust and the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL). She was the language advisor and worked with the curatorial team on the First Peoples Exhibition at Melbourne Museum, and has taught extensively across Victoria and south-eastern Australia.

She is considered a Senior Knowledge Holder of Language and Possum Cloak Story. Vicki is proud that her father, senior Gunditjmara Elder Ivan Couzens, served Aboriginal communities for more than 45 years at local, state and national levels, and established the first Dictionary of the Gunditjmara Languages in 1996.

Vicki Couzens was presented with an Australia Council Fellowship at the 9th National Indigenous Arts Awards at the Sydney Opera House on Friday, 27 May 2016.

Mandy Nicholson | Woiwurrung 

Born in Healesville, Mandy is a (Wurundjeri-baluk patriline) artist and Traditional Custodian of Melbourne and surrounds. Mandy also has connections to the Dja Dja Wurrung and Ngurai illam wurrung language groups of the Central/Eastern Kulin Nation on her father’s side and German on her mothers.

Throughout the last 25+ years, she has produced carvings, etchings, prints, airbrushed works, ceramic pieces (carved, painted and produced), murals, corporate logos, children's clothing and public art works. Today she specialises in acrylic paintings and digital works.

She gained a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Aboriginal Archaeology in 2011, worked for the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages for six years and is now PhD candidate studying how Aboriginal people connect to Country, off Country. She’s also a cultural mentor to young Indigenous girls, through learning and teaching of culture, language, dance and ceremony, elements of which also guide her artworks.

Sadie Heckenberg | Wiradjuri

Dr Sadie Heckenberg is the President of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Association, holds a ministerial appointment on the Higher Education Standards Panel and sits on the TEQSA Student Expert Panel.

A Wiradjuri woman, Sadie is the program coordinator of the Indigenous Higher Education Pathways Program and a lecturer in the College of Indigenous Studies, Education and Research at the University of Southern Queensland. A 2014 Fulbright Scholar, Sadie has been a Columbia University Oral History Institute Summer Fellow (2017) and NLA Norman McCann Summer Scholar (2017).

Sadie has recently completed a PhD in Indigenous Oral History at Swinburne University of Technology focusing on Indigenous methodologies, cultural safety and protecting Indigenous spoken knowledge.