Visitors arriving at the International terminal at Canberra Airport will be greeted by a Welcome to Country audio in Ngunnawal, the traditional Aboriginal language of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) region.
The Welcome to Country recorded by Ngunnawal Traditional Owners (custodians of the Canberra region) also features an introduction and translation in English.
For Caroline Hughes, a Ngunnawal Traditional Owner, the Canberra Airport initiative is an important recognition of Ngunnawal culture, reconciliation and a source of personal pride.
“Our language is the key to all our relationships and how we interact with each other. It is the salient ingredient to spirituality, lore, law and retaining our cultural identity and connection. However, growing up we could never share our language with non-indigenous people. Language was to be kept secret, to keep us safe. They took children away if you spoke language,” she said.
“Today, I am proud to share our language, welcoming visitors from around Australia and the world to our traditional Country.”
The Welcome to Country:
Craig Ritchie, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) CEO, and co-chair of the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages Steering Committee, said the Ngunnawal airport greeting is a great milestone in the revitalization of the Ngunnawal language and a timely celebration.
“The Ngunnawal community has been working tirelessly to revitalize and share its language, and AIATSIS is proud to help with this through the Ngunnawal Language Project,” Ritchie explained. “We are delighted that visitors to Canberra Airport will now be greeted in Ngunnawal, particularly in 2019, the International Year of Indigenous Languages.”
Stephen Byron, CEO of Canberra Airport, hopes that the Welcome to Country will connect visitors with the long, continuing Aboriginal history of the ACT region and enrich their stay.
“As more visitors travel to the ACT region, we want them to appreciate the full history of the land on which they have arrived,” said Byron. “Being welcomed to Canberra in Ngunnawal, by Traditional Owners, is an important and memorable first step for visitors arriving in Canberra and sets the foundation for a more enriching visit,” he said.
The Ngunnawal Welcome to Country message at Canberra Airport was officially launched at a ceremony on July 9.