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Giving this Country a Memory: Contemporary Aboriginal Voices of Australia By Anne Bre ...

Chapter 1:  Kim Scott
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Giving this Country a Memory:

“Can You Anchor a Shimmering Nation State
via Regional Indigenous Roots?”2

The Noongar Language Project

Anne: I wanted to ask you about your very different books. What’s it like looking back at Kayang & Me, the book that you finished before That Deadman Dance?

Kim: Well, it’s a continuing project actually. Kayang & Me was a way to thank Hazel Brown as much as anything. And it began me on a lot of language work which I’m still doing. I’ve got a couple of books coming out later this year, bilingual books. They’re Noongar creation stories from along the South Coast, where we’ve connected the informants, or the work of the informants in 1930, with their descendants today. Aunty Hazel’s uncle, Bob Roberts, her father’s brother, was one of the informants. The politics of archival and cultural material is very much about returning it to community. We got the group to invite people to a meeting in Albany and in front of everyone there we gave them back their dad’s or their uncle’s or their grandfather’s stories and within about ten minutes everyone was crying. I had taught myself a version of the International Phonetic Alphabet, which is what this early 1930s material was written in. I read the stories back to the descendants of the informants and we recorded it all. And then a few months later I cross-referenced all that with all the other South Coast linguists’ work, trying to get a dialect back.

Anne: So these were stories told in the Noongar language?

Kim: Yeah, in Albany, in 1930. Gerhardt Laves was the linguist’s name. There’s a website about him that David Nash has put together. We had another weekend where we played with those stories, illustrated them. We put together fifty copies of each of the three stories on a DVD with me, Roma Winmar, and Iris Woods reading the stories aloud in Noongar.