RUIL team members attend WANALA Aboriginal Languages Conference

RUIL members Rachel Nordinger and Nick Thieberger attended the 2016 WANALA Aboriginal Languages Conference and presented training sessions in Elan and recording techniques, as well as talking about the Daisy Bates project ( and the nature of adjectives and adverbs in Australian languages.


WANALA is the Western and Northern Aboriginal Languages Alliance,a collaborative alliance for all Aboriginal organisations, projects and activities in the region aimed at supporting, promoting, and teaching languages, and providing services such as interpreting and translation. This year’s conference was held in Kalgoorlie (Western Australia), and directed at those who work with Indigenous languages around Australia – speakers of Aboriginal languages, workers at language centres, those involved in language projects and schools running Aboriginal language courses. The conference was attended by over 100 people from not only Western Australia, but also from other parts of Australia.

As outlined on the conference website, ‘the theme of this conference relates to the critical role language plays in building personal and community resilience. Language is an expression of identity and a carrier of identity. Language is a means to express intellect and a way to develop intellect. By ensuring languages are kept strong, healthy and vibrant, Aboriginal people build resilience. Conversely, resilient communities keep language strong, healthy and vibrant. The organisers invite papers and presentations that demonstrate the ways in which language is used to build identity, intellect, strength and resilience.’

As well as delivering the training, Rachel and Nick heard reports about a range of activities and attended the launch of the newly established Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre. There was also a pop-up Aboriginal language museum, a short films festival and an Aboriginal arts and crafts market.

To read more about the conference, visit

To read more about WANALA on their website:


Bilingual nun Tess Ward honoured for her work in remote Indigenous community

In recognition of decades of work in bilingual education in the remote community of Wadeye, Sr. Tess Ward has received an Order of Australia. Read more about her work and the celebrations on the ABC news website, and watch ABC News 24 on Saturday 9th June, 11:30am (local time) to see and hear the story. Congratulations to Sr. Tess Ward!

Video of public lecture now online

The video of our most recent public lecture by Associate Professor Nicholas Reid, ‘Aboriginal memories of inundation of the Australian coast’, is now available to view online. You can find the video (and that of our public lecture last year) on our Resources page, under Recordings of our Public Lecture events.

Advertisement: two-year Research Fellow position with RUIL

The Research Unit for Indigenous Language is advertising a two-year Research Fellow position on language and education for Indigenous children in remote communities of Australia. The position will be based in the School of Languages and Linguistics at the University of Melbourne (Melbourne, Australia), but includes scope for fieldwork as appropriate to the project.

Further details, including selection criteria, can be found at on the university’s Prospective staff current opportunities web page and in the Postdoctoral Research Fellow position description (88kb pdf).

For additional information please email Rachel Nordlinger.

Indigenous applicants are strongly encouraged.

Upcoming Indigenous Languages event at Victorian State Library this week

On Thursday 14th April, join Paul Paton and Mandy Nicholson from the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages to find out more about language revival, and learn how these innovative programs are maintaining the uniqueness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

  • Paul Paton is an Aboriginal man from the Gunnai and Monaro tribes of southeastern Australia. He is the Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages.
  • Mandy Nicholson is a member of the Wurundjeri-willam clan of Melbourne and is an artist, archaeologist and leader of the Djirri Djirri Dance Group. In her work at VACL she supports language projects within school programs and local communities.

For more information please see the State Library of Victoria Reawakenings: the revival of Victorian Aboriginal languages web page.

Download the e-flyer for Reawakenings: The revival of Aboriginal languages (150kb pdf).

The race to digitise language records of the Pacific region before it is too late

This excellent article by RUIL team member Dr Nick Thieberger outlines the incredibly important work of the Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC). Since its inception in 2008, PARADISEC has digitised 5,600 hours of recordings in 900 languages, and has built the digital infrastructure for linguists and musicologists to safely house the priceless recordings they make in the course of their research. Read more about their excellent work on The Conversation The race to digitise language records of the Pacific region before it is too late web page.



Upcoming Public Lecture: Aboriginal memories of inundation of the Australian Coast

Aboriginal memories of inundation of the Australian Coast

Join our guest lecturer Associate Professor Nicholas Reid (UNE) as he shares the research he has carried out with geographer Patrick Nunn, into the manner in which post-glacial rises in sea levels have been passed down through the oral history storytelling traditions found in Aboriginal culture. This fascinating research links stories with geographical evidence, resulting in the ability to assign these some of these stories an age range of around 7000 years old.

When: 6pm – 7pm, Wednesday 25th May 2016
Where: Theatre A, Elisabeth Meyer building, The University of Melbourne, Parkville
For further information and to make bookings (essential), please visit The University of Melbourne Events web page 

Download the Aboriginal memories of inundation of the Australian coast flyer (1.99Mb pdf)

We wouldn’t be mourning lost languages if we embraced multilingualism: The Conversation

This is a must-read article by RUIL’s director, Associate Professor Rachel Nordlinger, published in The Conversation, on March 1st 2016. This article, We wouldn’t be mourning lost languages if we embraced multilingualism, links two very important issues around Australian Indigenous languages that have been discussed in the Australian media over the last week. Rachel encourages Australians to take pride in the traditional multilingual heritage found in our country, and to embrace it in our current society.

Read the article on The Conversation We wouldn’t be mourning lost languages if we embraced multilingualism web page.

Dr. Ruth Singer publishes new book: “The dynamics of nominal classification”

dynamics of nominal classificationRUIL team member Dr. Ruth Singer has just released her book, The dynamics of nominal classification: productive and lexicalised uses of gender agreement in Mawng. Published by Pacific Linguistics, this book is the result of years of in-depth research, conducted mainly with community members from Warruwi, South Golburn Island, NT.

The use of grammatical gender in the Australian language Mawng calls into question prevailing ideas about the functions of nominal classification systems. Mawng’s gender system has a strong semantic basis and plays an important role in the construction of meaning in discourse. Gender agreement in verbs is frequently lexicalized, creating idioms called lexicalised agreement verbs that are structurally similar to noun-verb idioms. This book will be of interest to anyone interested in nominal classification or cross-linguistic approaches to idioms.

This book complements Ruth’s current research project, What makes a multilingual community? The life of languages at Warruwi community, which will form the basis of Ruth’s next publication.