As an Aboriginal person who grew up unable to speak my language I feel I have been denied a core part of my identity, and it is a deep wound.
The first time I said something in my language in public, “Ngaya Ngamitjimitong” – I belong to the Ngamitji clan – I broke down and wept in front of 400 people.
Speaking my language was a visceral experience that left me weeping for something I couldn’t articulate. A loss so deep it was breathtaking. I have seen many Aboriginal people have the same reaction as they begin the journey back to speaking in their own language.
Without our languages many Aboriginal people talk of being bereft, of wanting to speak language more than having food or housing.
Language loss is so core to our identity as peoples it has had a profound effect on our social and emotional wellbeing, affecting our health and our capacity to thrive economically, socially and educationally.