Background to Nyernila
Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL) was established in 1994 to address the issues of language loss and is the state
body responsible for coordinating Community Language Programs throughout Victoria. VACL is focused on retrieving, recording and researching Aboriginal languages and providing a central resource on Victorian Aboriginal Languages.
In 2009–2010 Creative Victoria worked with VACL to publish Indigenous Creation Stories of the Kulin Nation. Indigenous Creation Stories of the Kulin Nation was a collaborative project with Community Language Program Workers from Wathaurong, Taungerung,
Boon Wurrung and Woi Wurrung language groups contributing stories, including language of their particular Country. In one instance, an entire story was told in Wathaurong language. In others select words were translated.
The booklet was launched February 2010 to commemorate the opening of the Wheeler Centre and to celebrate Melbourne’s designation by UNESCO as a City of Literature in 2008. Demand for the publication was widespread and the publication quickly ran out.
Responding to such interest and demand, Creative Victoria approached VACL in 2010 to undertake a similar project involving all - or as many as possible - language groups across Victoria. There were approximately a further 34–35 groups with languages in varying states of recovery.
Supported by Creative Victoria VACL undertook a series of language development workshops with many of these communities to share stories and language, and prepare content for publication in the current volume Nyernila – Listen Continuously: Aboriginal Creation Stories of Victoria.
These stories reflect the very active process of language reclamation in these communities across the whole state. Some communities have developed extensive vocabularies and entire stories have been recorded in language. Other communities are beginning the hard work, recovering one word at a time and these words are interspersed with English. It is important to note that Aboriginal and English translation do not correspond word for word, but rather the overall idea or concept relayed Aboriginal storytelling is approximated using English language.
Melbourne’s designation by UNESCO as a City of Literature acknowledges the rich history of storytelling which dates back 40,000 years. That history continues today with these very important steps to reclaim and write down some of the first stories about Victoria.