In Coffs Harbour, Australia, Clark Webb is on a mission to revive the endangered Indigenous language of the Gumbaynggirr people. Leading a class of school children in a dance to traditional songs, he emphasizes the importance of Indigenous language revival as a form of sovereignty and cultural preservation. The Gumbaynggirr Giingana Freedom School, founded by Webb, is the first bilingual Indigenous school in New South Wales and represents a grassroots effort to save endangered languages.
The upcoming “Voice to Parliament” referendum on October 14 seeks to grant Indigenous recognition in Australia’s constitution for the first time. Language preservation is a crucial element of the ‘Yes’ campaign, as many Indigenous communities see it as vital for the survival of their cultures. Australia’s Indigenous communities have a history dating back tens of thousands of years, but colonization and discriminatory policies have threatened their languages and cultures. Today, efforts like the GGFS and the ‘Yes’ campaign aim to ensure Indigenous voices and languages are heard and preserved.
Clark Webb, a Gumbaynggirr speaker, sees language revival as a way to fill a missing link in his life. With approximately 30 proficient speakers of Gumbaynggirr left, including his nine-year-old daughter, the fight to protect and revitalize Indigenous languages is more critical than ever.
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