Albury in the Year of Indigenous Languages

Walking around Albury, locals and visitors alike have probably noticed an explosion of public art.

Rolling out an internet broadband network (the NBN) across the country has meant a lot of visible infrastructure which could easily be a blight on the landscape. The local council is to be commended for turning the grey boxes that now proliferate beside our roads, into something worth looking at.

Some of the NBN boxes are covered in historic photos, some are more contemporary in their focus, and many celebrate the flora and fauna of the area.

The most rewarding are a series that showcase the culture of the city, each place or institution paired with some beautifully appropriate wildlife. There is even a walking tour up on the council website (here) to lead anyone interested around all eight boxes in this series.

Wiradjuri botonic gardens and buttery copy

They feature the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk and the Blue Bonnet Parrot; Botanic Gardens and the Butterfly; Lake Hume and the Guya; Flying Fruit Fly Circus and the Flying Fox; Nail Can and the Cicada; HotHouse Theatre and the Lyrebird; Noreuil Park and the Blue Tongue Lizard; Mungabareena Reserve and the Bogong Moth.

The arresting black and white artwork is by the acclaimed Melbourne artist and illustrator Mandy Ord. The humour in the art is a delight.

And the extra feature on these NBN boxes is what makes the walking tour a must-do experience. The stories to accompany the illustrations are in both English and Wiradjuri.

Albury is built on Wiradjuri land and Wiradjuri is one of the Aboriginal languages having a resurgence thanks to the perseverance and dedication of the traditional owners and custodians of the land.

Dr Pettina Love and Ruth Davys of Giilangyaldhaanygalang (meaning Storytellers in the Wiradjuri language) provided the text which tells us about each of the subjects.

Wiradjuri nail can hill copy

It is lovely engaging work. For example, the lyrebird imitates the actors at Hot House Theatre and the cicada encourages the runners on the annual Nail Can Hill Run. ‘I sing to them all, “Go, go, go!”’ or ‘Ngadhu babinya nganhayguliya, “Yanhadha, yanhadha, yanhadha!”’

These are big long words, difficult for a non-speaker to get their tongue around. Luckily there is an app available to help with pronunciation (here), once again, thanks to the dedication of the Indigenous community.

This year – 2019 – is the International Year of Indigenous Languages. One year to celebrate doesn’t seem enough. Hopefully in years to come the NBN boxes will be a reminder of the long history of this region and will even encourage us to learn a little of the language.

There is a greeting repeated on each of the artworks: good day everyone. In Wiradjuri that is yiradhu marang nginyalgir. It’d be great to hear that take over when we meet on the streets.


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