From the flourishing possibly sixteen original languages spoken in lutruwita (Tasmania), to near extinguishment under post-invasion colonial pressures and sleeping for almost two hundred years, palawa kani has emerged as the language of Tasmanian Aborigines. It is now fundamental to Aboriginal community activities and family life, with two generations of children having learnt it from infancy. palawa kani is shared with the public through renaming of places, and things as varied as a newly discovered squat lobster and the next Antarctic icebreaker. How did this happen? Where does the knowledge of the language come from? And can it ever be a ‘living’ language, one that is used in daily life?
Theresa Sainty is a Pakana woman and has been Aboriginal Linguistic Consultant for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s palawa kani Language Program since 1997. Theresa has also worked with the Tasmanian Department of Education, Aboriginal Education Services, developing Aboriginal Cultural Awareness training and a number of curriculum resources about Tasmanian Aborigines. Theresa is current Chair of TMAG’s Tasmanian Aboriginal Advisory Council, and has begun a Senior Indigenous Research Scholarship at UTAS.