The Darug Language and Culture Class was facilitated by Jacinta Tobin (Darug Allowan) and hosted by Cumberland Council. Jacinta is a musician who uses her creative skills to teach the Darug language. Darug is only one of two hundred and fifty Aboriginal languages across Australia. Within Darug there are two dialects, Freshwater (living inland) and Saltwater (living near the coast). The class began with an explanation of the history of the Aboriginal people – the links to the land and culture before the European settlers arrived. It was then highlighted that within the first five years of the invasion, two thirds of the Aboriginal tribes were lost.
Jacinta explained the differences between Aboriginal and Western culture. This included Aboriginal grammar/ perspective as macro to micro. An example is, ‘on the beach there is a canoe’ instead of ‘there is a canoe on the beach.’ This analogy demonstrates the ability to plan for long term sustainability as the Aboriginal people traditionally made decisions for six generations. Furthermore, ‘Dreaming’ is not just a term used to refer to the past but rather means the past, present and future. Another fascinating concept is the way in which Aboriginal culture is extremely in touch and linked with nature, for example a flock of cockatoos flying in the sky means that rain is coming. This provoked personal reflection of our own cultures general lack of attention to nature and the array of possibilities that could open, if only we were consciously attuned.
Statistics were also used to highlight current injustices suffered by Aboriginal communities. These included that whilst Aboriginal people make up only 3% of the population, 40% of children in Out of Home Care (OOHC) and similarly 40% – 50% of those in the Juvenile Justice system are Aboriginal. These figures demonstrate the inequalities that still exist within our society; highlighting the need to challenge systemic barriers and implement anti-oppressive practices.
The class closed with meaningful discussion followed by song. The discussion topics included Western Sydney the home to the largest Aboriginal population in Australia a fact, which many people are unaware of, and also the ongoing racism and discrimination still being faced by Aboriginal people today. It was also identified that discrimination affects people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds among many others. This emphasised the need for all to promote equality in order to eradicate unfair treatment.
A touching story that links to the final message is one in which some people from Uluru passed on a song they knew about the Blue Mountains. Whilst culturally it is inappropriate to sing a certain tribe’s song on another tribe’s land, it was shared with this tribe during the invasion. The tribe then waited until it was safe for Aboriginal culture to be practiced in order to reteach the song. Jacinta concluded with a moving message (appreciative of the large participation of the class) – whilst Aboriginal culture had been prohibited from practice, the culture is still alive today and permitted to be shared with others. She explained its importance and significance for Aboriginal people (which reflects gradual improvement in society) and encouraged participants to continue in the process of sharing.
The following resources are provided for further interest: