Engagement is the name of the game at this years CONVERGE 2021 held on Bundjalung country in Lismore. First Nations Media from around the country have gathered to share and learn from each other after such a stressful year in 2020. A strong part of being on country is how proud Bundjalung people are of language.
Bundjalung (also spelt Bandjalang or Banjalang) belongs to the Pama-Nyungan family of Australia languages.
At the time of first contact with Europeans in the mid 1800s, there was up to 20 dialects of Bundjalung. ‘Bundjalung’ has been used as a general term for the whole language (covering all the different dialects) and also as a term to refer to certain individual dialects. However, each dialect has a specific name of its own.
Dialects include: Wahlubal (also known as Western Bandjalang), Yugambeh, Birrihn, the Barryugil dialect, Bandjalang, Wudjebal, Wiyabal, Wuhyabal, Minyangbal, Gidhabal, Galibal and Ngarrahngbal. Many of these names point to some characteristic peculiar to that dialect. For example, Gidhabal means ‘those who say gidha (alright)’, while Wiyabal means ‘those who say wiya (you)’. It is thought that the term ‘Bandjalung’ was originally used to describe the dialect spoken around Bangawalbin Creek and that this name was later used to cover all dialects.
Although Bundjalung people slowed the stealing of tribal lands by European settlers, the European invasion had a severe impact on population, settlement and inhabitation of tradition areas, and on cultural practices, including language use. The use of Bundjalung was actively suppressed, and English emerged as a common language. Despite the forces working against Bundjalung, some dialects were still actively and widely used as late as the 1950s.
Bundjalung people have been teaching their language and culture in community groups and schools for many years. Years ago, Bundjalung people were multilingual, also speaking the languages of their neighbours. Several Bundjalung speakers were recorded in the 1960s and 1970s; along with today’s speakers, these recordings form the bedrock for current Bundjalung language revitalisation.
The Bundjalung language was spoken in an area that included the north-east corner of New South Wales and the south-eastern corner of Queensland. This area stretches from Grafton on the Clarence River in the south, to the Logan River in the north and inland as far as the Great Dividing Range at Tenterfield and Warwick. It includes the regional centres of Lismore, Casino, Kyogle, Woodenbong, Byron Bay, Ballina, Coolangatta-Tweed Heads, Murwillumbah, the Gold Coast, Beaudesert and Warwick.