Indigenous language success: Gary Williams helped translate the award-winning editorial.
Indigenous language success: Gary Williams helped translate the award-winning editorial. Ute Schulenberg

Huge success in anyone's language

WHEN Gary Williams agreed to translate an editorial written by his friend, Aden Ridgeway, into Gumbaynggirr, the language of Mr Ridgeway's grandmother, he knew it would be quite a challenge.

But when the original arrived, filled with abstract concepts and Australian idioms, it seemed as though Gary and the team (including Dallas Walker, Julie Long, Anna Ash and Brother Steve Morelli) from Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Cultural Co-operative at Nambucca Heads had accepted their own ‘Mission Impossible'.

Add to that the tight time frame, a shade over 72 hours before The Sydney Morning Herald's publication deadline, and one can well imagine the intensity and sweat that ensued.

Last week, the ‘First Words' series, of which the editorial was the historic opening piece, was awarded the United Nations Association of Australia Media Peace Award 2010 for its ‘Promotion of Aboriginal Reconciliation'.

The series focused on indigenous language and literacy by using stories from all over Australia and was driven by a SMH team led by editor-in-chief Peter Fray.

“The big surprise was how well the language handled all those modern technical elements,” Mr Williams said.

“When we saw it in print we really had a glow of pride mixed with the satisfaction of a job well done ... especially given the time factor.”

The media coverage that followed the publication proved to be wonderful publicity for indigenous language projects and resulted in a noticeable increase in sponsorship and donations to the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation.

This latest accolade has created another burst of linguistic interest and quiet pride.

Back in Nambucca, Mr Williams and the Muurrbay team have just launched their fourth dictionary, this time for the Gathang language group between Port Macquarie and Port Stephens. They have also published a handbook of NSW and ACT language.



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