Ngunnawal language restored in AIATSIS building name

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Maraga unveiled.

IT has taken nearly two decades, but the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies has today (September 10) officially named its building “Maraga”, a Ngunnawal word for “a strong and robust shield”.

AIATSIS CEO, Craig Ritchie said that AIATSIS had consulted the United Ngunnawal Elders Council and the Winanggaay Ngunnawal Language Group who provided the building’s name.

“Maraga” means a waddy shield, a tool of dual purpose offering the holder protection against the powerful waddy spear/club, and which can also be used as a coolamon vessel to hold babies and carry food.

“When AIATSIS relocated to the Acton Peninsula, it marked an exciting era for the Institute. Naming the building ‘Maraga’ not only reaffirms and strengthens our connection with the Ngunnawal people, it also highlights the importance of language for First Australians,” Ritchie said.

He said the naming was an outcome of the institute’s commitment to the UN 2019 International Decade of Indigenous Languages and reinforced the outcomes of the National Indigenous Languages Survey by AIATSIS, which found the benefits of languages for Indigenous peoples included positive economic outcomes across health, well-being, employment and education.

“With this simple act of naming our building Maraga, we’re contributing to Indigenous languages being more prominent and visible in everyday life,” he said.

Winanggaay Nungunnawal Language Group Coordinator, Caroline Hughes said, “For our community this is a step closer to acknowledging that this land is ancient, and its features, waterways and landmarks have always had names”.

“Ngunnawal has always been spoken here – but through policy and deliberate effort it diminished. Now, through hard work and the support of AIATSIS we are restoring it,” she said.

The National Indigenous Languages Report may be accessed here.

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