Thursday, June 13, 2024

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HomeIssue 10Bringing Arrernte language into town signage

Bringing Arrernte language into town signage

p2618 Akeyulerre dual naming 430By 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.
p2537 Apmere 400The 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.
p2618 Anzac Lions Walk sign 430The 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.


  1. Arrernte? Get real. Wasting taxpayers’ cash. Most people speak English, Chinese, Japanese, German, Italian, French, Spanish etc. Wake up, Alice Springs. Law and Order first.

  2. @ John
    @ Pseudo Guru
    If not out of respect to the Arrernte people, which neither of you seem capable of, there are persuasive economic reasons for signposting Arrernte names for particular sites and/or dual naming.
    The deal with tourism is to establish local monopolies, especially in the context of local history and culture, that no other tourist destination can have.
    It’s about distinguishing a destination as an exclusive place to visit, and spend time and money.
    The use of local languages in the context of Mparntwe / Alice Springs is something no other destination can do.
    Take notice, for example, of the multilingual signage at the airport, which includes Arrernte. No other airport in the world can do this. All done at very small cost, and with the bonus of employing Aboriginal people.

  3. Well said, Chiara Maqueda. The role which our region’s unique Indigenous culture plays in attracting visitors to our town is not well appreciated by some, and certainly not by many of our decision-makers. Central Australia, and Alice Springs as its capital, has the potential to develop its own distinct culture, based upon a fairer and more equitable social structure and a notion of “looking after country”, which could again make it a desirable tourist destination and a better place in which to live.

  4. If people think some local language signs are going to make Alice Springs a better place to live and more attractive to tourists, you need your head examined.
    Reduction in crime and lower air fares, that’s where you need to start and build from that.

  5. Well said, Michael.
    All this soft rubbish. We need to be addressing the real problems, not playing with meaningless pointless things.

  6. Mwerre anthurre, arrantherre arritnye Mparntwerenye akaltyirretyeke!
    (Very good, you all should learn the names of Mparntwe!)

  7. @ Chiara: There is also signage at the airport in Japanese, German and probably a couple of others.
    It might be seen as quaint for these tourists, but that is it, a novelty.
    People are concerned about the cost and then return on investment. To say we are the only town or airport in the world is just silly, and ignorant to the fact that any airport in Australia is on land that had connection to the Aboriginal group of that area, and they all had their own language, the same could be said of any airport anywhere in the world that had an Indigenous connection.

  8. @Michael Dean
    Have you considered that helping Arrernte people to increase their self esteem by publicly recognising their culture might be part of helping to reduce crime?
    Is the prevalence of crime not related to the marginalisation and inequality they experience?
    From your surname it would appear that your heritage might be from the UK. Here is an example of how, even there, recognition of a distinct language and culture is seen as fundamental to people’s sense of self.
    Can you imagine how you would be feeling about your own native language now, had the Japanese successfully invaded and colonised Australia in 1943, and you had been born and brought up speaking English at home but being educated in Japanese?
    Is it not true that unless and until we can learn to imagine what is is like to walk in the other person’s shoes, we will never engage with them effectively in resolving our differences.

  9. Well done Akeyulerre. Thanks Arrente people for your generosity. This is for and about all of us.


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