Mid West family revives rare language

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianMidwest Times
Theona and Esther Councillor are working to revive the Naaguja language.
Camera IconTheona and Esther Councillor are working to revive the Naaguja language. Credit: Theona Councillor

A well-known family in Northampton, Chapman Valley and Geraldton is ready to share a closely guarded family treasure with the outside world.

They are all descended from a woman from Bowes River, named Jooldarno (Sarah Feast), and the secret is her language.

“Naaguja hasn’t been spoken for many years. It is a rare language we are in the process of revitalising,” family member Theona Councillor said.

“It needs to be preserved for future generations.”

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The public was invited to a language-revival launch at Northampton’s Old Convent on Saturday morning.

“The Naaguja people of Mooniemia are happy to be able to share our rich culture and language with the Mid West,” Ms Councillor said.

“We see this celebration as very significant in reclaiming our identity.”

Naaguja director Nichole Councillor said Naaguja people had been a very private people, but were able to share their knowledge now that family member Eadie Maher was a qualified linguist.

“An elder, who has passed on, wrote a three-page list of basic things that are exclusively Naaguja language and he gave it to his cousin, Yvonne Radcliffe,” Nichole Councillor said.

“The spoken words, all the words my father used over the years, we are remembering them and adding them and they are not in other languages.”

Nichole Councillor said they had compiled a list of more than 600 Naaguja words, which together with other cultural knowledge would be available to be taught in local schools.

“We are happy to share it as much as our culture will allow,” she said.

“There are obviously some restrictions but the teaching of the language and celebration of the seasons is general stuff, which does involve a community.”

Northampton District High School principal Mel Hancock said she was looking forward to working with the elders to create a time line and plan for teaching Naaguja.

“They have done an amazing amount of work developing the language and history within the region,” she said.

“The most exiting element of that is they are so keen to engage with us, so we can learn about their history within this local area.”

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