A small community grant from BHP Nickel West is making a big impact in the Goldfields, with more than 60 years of work by two linguists, Dawn and Brian Hadfield, culminating in the Cundeelee Wangka Dictionary, published with the Goldfields Aboriginal Language Center Aboriginal Corporation with support from BHP.
Cundeelee Wangka is a Pitjantjatjarra-based language that developed on the Cundeelee mission in the Goldfields in the mid-1900s.
First Nations people from multiple language groups lived on the Cundeelee Mission beginning in the 1940s, and a contemporary, inclusive Indigenous language was formed that included parts of all languages.
Linguists Dawn and Brian Hadfield worked with Cundeelee Wangka speakers from 1958 through the 1980s to record, analyze, and document the language. They then began working with the Goldfields Aboriginal Language Center Aboriginal Corporation to launch a dictionary, saying it was an absolute honor to work on this language.
The important dictionary was launched on August 2 in the Goldfields with the Hon. Wilson Tucker MLA, Jody Broun CEO of the National Indigenous Australian’s Agency, senior linguists from Goldfields Aboriginal Language Center Aboriginal Corporation and Jacinta Parsons from BHP’s Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter celebrate with the authors and their families.
“This dictionary represents the preservation of a dying language that is important not just to Indigenous peoples, but to everyone,” said Jacinta Parsons, Acting General Manager of Kalgoorlie Nickel Smelter.
“Nickel mining has a long history in the Goldfields area, with BHP having operated there for over 60 years – but that time is only a drop in the ocean compared to the longevity of the Aboriginal language celebrated here today.”
BHP provided $10,000 in financial support to Goldfields Aboriginal Language Center in 2020, through our localized community grants program.
Aboriginal languages are used by 3,200 Aboriginal people in the Goldfields area. For about 60% of people, an Aboriginal language is their first language.
Language is the fundamental means by which Indigenous peoples share their knowledge, communicate their understanding of the world, and connect with their spirituality. It is not only a means of communication, it is a means of expressing knowledge about everything: law, geography, history, family and human relations, philosophy, religion, anatomy, childcare, health, concern for the country, planning territory, astronomy, biology and food.
Evidence suggests that language also plays a critical role in the well-being of Indigenous peoples, including their mental health and sense of community belonging, and this grant recognizes the importance of language in Indigenous communities.
“Language preservation is an essential part of ensuring that Aboriginal culture is protected and shared for generations to come,” said Meath Hammond, BHP’s Corporate Affairs Manager in Western Australia.
“We are very proud to help support the preservation of the Cundeelee Wangka language of the Goldfields.”