By KIERAN FINNANE
Work will start on ways to bring the Arrernte language into the place signage around Alice Springs.
The proposal was brought to the Town Council last night by representatives of Akeyulerre Inc, Amelia Turner and Kate Lawrence, accompanied by Sharon Alice and Margaret Scobie. Akeyulerre Inc is a gathering and healing place for Arrernte families.
Right: Kate Lawrence and Amelia Turner, at council last night.
In this International Year of Indigenous Languages, they want to work with council, first on a specific project achievable within six months, then set a timeline for a process beyond that.
The women talked about both dual-language signage for both street names and names of significant places and things, such as the trees in the river, the grand old tree at the intersection of Parsons Street and the mall, the park near Anzac Hill – a “really significant place” for Arrernte people.
They want to see not only names, but meanings and guides to pronunciation as well as stories of place.
They pointed out that there are already quite a lot of Arrernte street names, but most people are unaware of what they mean and don’t know how to pronounce them well.
“Undoolya”, for example, is an Arrernte word for “deep shade”. “Gnoilya” means “the dog”. Both are street names in Eastside. There are many more in the Gap area.
The women said the idea has grown out of the work Akeyulerre Inc has done on Arrernte language revitalisation and maintenance, through Apmere angkentye-kenhe, meaning “a place for language”.
Based in the Yellow Shed behind the Flynn Church, this program ran for a month in 2017, and for two months last year. Among the activities were language challenges, 50 words in 2017, 30 phrases in 2018, that “everyone living in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) should know”.
They also produced audio guides in Arrernte and English for walking tours around key sites in the central area of town.
Ms Turner said people really enjoyed the experience, whether it was workers on their lunch break or tourists: people wanted to listen to “true stories of this place”, places they may already have seen on their itinerary.
It was promoting Alice Springs, that there is “Indigenous culture here, in this place called Mparntwe.”
Akeyulerre Inc has a lot of senior language experts, who are “fired up” after the work done at the Yellow Shed, said Ms Lawrence.
They’ve got ideas about what could be done and want to talk with council about what’s possible. As well as signage, there could be a web-based resource, suggested Ms Lawrence: “We’re open to how ever you’d like to do it.”
She suggested that council delegate members and staff to have a formal meeting with Akeyulerre’s “language experts and some of the elders,” and that this be done within the next month.
The proposal was well received. Councillors Glen Auricht, Marli Banks and Jimmy Cocking all used the word “exciting”.
Right: In a rare dual naming in central Alice, an Arrernte name for Anzac Hill, Untyeyetwelye, on the tiny sign suspended beneath the archway, is so discreet it’s likely to be overlooked.
Cr Auricht in particular, as “an Arrernte language speaker for over 40 years”, enthused about the possibilities, including in local parks and along council’s walking and cycling trails.
“We can certainly lift the bar for enhancing the story of Alice Springs,” he said.
It was a bit of a dampener to then hear Mayor Damien Ryan suggest that the first step be taken with officers who would bring back to council what is proposed; he would leave the arrangements with CEO.
A formal meeting with language experts and elders at Akeyulerre Inc is surely an opportunity for relationship-building by elected members with this important constituency, especially after the experiences of this last year – the sagas of flying the Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill and of negotiating a location for the proposed national Aboriginal art gallery.
Bringing Arrernte language into town signage
By KIERAN FINNANE