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Noongar lullabies keep language alive

Emily AceSouth Western Times
Songwriters and recording artists Marcelle Riley, Phyllis and Mika Bennell, 11, celebrate the launch of Kwobidak Maawit with Noongar Boodja Language Centre language facilitator Charmaine Councillor.
Camera IconSongwriters and recording artists Marcelle Riley, Phyllis and Mika Bennell, 11, celebrate the launch of Kwobidak Maawit with Noongar Boodja Language Centre language facilitator Charmaine Councillor. Credit: Jon Gellweiler

The community gathered to listen to heartfelt lullabies created and recorded by South West families last week, as the CD and songbook Kwobidak Maawit: Noongar Lullabies from Bunbury was officially released at the Bunbury Regional Art Galleries.

The album, featuring 19 original songs, was was created during the Community Arts Network’s Lullabies music, language and art program.

The songs, and the stories behind them, were shared for the first time at the event, which was broadcast live on 100.9fm Noongar Radio.

The Noongar language is considered critically endangered, with only 475 people identified as fluent speakers in the last national census.

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Network general manager June Moorhouse said the Federally-funded program supported the community to learn the basics of Noongar language and in turn use this knowledge to create “gorgeous lullabies”.

“These lullabies are not only a legacy for these families, but hopefully they support a future where Noongar language is spoken by everyone living on Noongar boodjar,” she said.

Songwriter Marcelle Riley said the project helped participants to reconnect with culture and country.

“I think music makes it more powerful,” she said.

“It lets everyone out there know that we are doing things in our community and that our language is not dying, we’re reviving it.”

The year-long program partnered with the Noongar Boodjar Language Centre and South West Aboriginal Medical Service to engage with Noongar families.

“For the indigenous participants to be able to speak and learn the language has been amazing,” said centre language facilitator Charmaine Councillor.

“It is just amazing people now actually have something tangible to take home with them.

“I was so privileged to be a part of it and hope the future generations will be able to get more involved and do something like this in their own communities.”

The CD and songbook are available to download for free at canwa.com.au.

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