May 31, 2011 - National Reconciliation Week

– Australia

Reconciliation means coming together. And, in the case of Australia's Reconciliation Week, it means working to overcome divisions and inequality between Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, on the one hand, and non-Indigenous (largely European-ancestry) Australians, on the other.

According to the official website, National Reconciliation Week 2011 (May 27 to June 3) is “all about proper recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.” 

During the week Australians can view exhibitions such as “Yiloga! Tiwi Footy,” about Tiwi football players, and “Marnti Warajanga” (We're Traveling), about the ongoing work for social and political change. Workshops for kids and film festivals are held, celebratory dinners and BBQ feasts are eaten, and cultural walks are taken.

Many Aboriginal words are familiar to non-Australians because they have entered English. Some of the names for animals are among my favorite words in the world: dingos, kangaroos, potoroos, wombats, wallabies, koalas, and kookaburras. Boomerangs are weapons (and toys), billabongs are small lakes or waterholes, and yabber means (as it sounds) “to talk.”

Strangely, the word didgeridoo is not an Aboriginal word, even though it names an Aboriginal musical instrument. There are a variety of Aboriginal words for the instrument, including yadaki. The word didgeridoo is of Western origin and could be onomatopoetic—in other words, copying the sound that the didgeridoo makes.

I also thought that bandicoots and emus, Australian animals, got their names from Aboriginal languages, but in actual fact bandicoot comes from Teluga (a language of India), and emu from Arabic. Of course, there are lots of Australian slang words that are not Aboriginal in origin!

Here are the lyrics to the kookaburra song, and here are the words to Waltzing Matilda. 

You can enthusiastically sing these songs even if you've never seen a kookaburra bird or coolabah tree! 

Learn about Aboriginal art and culture!
Check out last year's post.

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