Mobilising Noongar Song Archives to Nourish Language Revitalisation

Tuesday, 2 July 2019
Dr Clint Bracknell

The Noongar song traditions of Western Australia’s south coast are critically endangered, as is the Noongar language. In Australia and elsewhere, the repatriation of archival material to communities of origin has emerged as a common practice amongst music researchers working with Indigenous people. Increased community access to old recordings of song performances may prompt recollections, trigger new performances and provide impetus for communities to engage in processes of cultural revitalisation. In order to support the incorporation of archival song recordings into an existing Noongar language revitalisation program, we have trialed a variety of technologies while developing community-oriented resources and workshop methods. Song sharing via peer-to-peer digital solutions and face-to-face gatherings has supported community priorities to control, consolidate and enhance cultural heritage. The recirculation of archival songs has enlivened south coast Noongar language revitalisation efforts and workshops focusing on singing these songs have resulted in increased feelings of confidence and connection amongst participants. Enhancing capacity for singing in the home community where recordings were originally captured has functioned to decentralise the archive and truly mobilise the songs it holds.