Award-winning musician Josh Pike has made it his mission to champion the indigenous language in the best way he knows how: through music and song.
The Ambassador of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation is calling on elementary schools across the country to join the Busking For Change fundraising campaign, in which students learn the song in English and Kriol to raise funds.
These funds enable ILF to help more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in remote communities access and create books in their native languages.
Pike said they hope to surpass last year’s successful pilot program, which involved five schools and raised over $16,000, by registering 100 schools in the country with a $100,000 fundraising goal.
“As a white Australian, I have always been passionate about the idea of bridging the gap and the injustice that has befallen Indigenous Australians over the years,” Pike said.
“Literacy for me was something that changed my life, not only reading books but also musical literacy, being able to practice words and art was incredibly powerful.”
The idea for Busking For Change originated as a pub gig in 2009 and developed as the Pike kids entered school.
“This goes beyond just raising money for the ILF, it’s an opportunity to discuss things from an Indigenous perspective, to learn about our history, and also to be an opportunity to be inclusive with music,” Pike said.
All registered elementary schools receive the tools and resources they need to make their Busking for Change a success, including: song, charts, lyrics, and translations.
Registration closes on June 30th and schools have time until Indigenous Literacy Day on September 6th to rehearse and prepare their Street Bus Day show.
This year’s anthem “Words Make The World Go Around” was created by Pike and fellow ILF Ambassadors Justine Clarke and Deborah Cheetham in collaboration with students from the Gavour School in Sydney.
Four well-known indigenous musicians, DOBBY, Jeremy Maru, Tilly Tyala Thomas and Aodhan supported the campaign.
The indigenous languages of Australia have been classified as seriously endangered.
According to the 2018-19 AIATSIS survey, only 123 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages remain in use, a sharp drop from over 250 different pre-colonization languages.
Of the remaining languages, only 12 remain relatively strong and are passed on to children.
The UN has declared 2022-2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages in response to the global crisis faced by native languages.
“It’s aligned in such a beautiful way because every year there will be a new song and it will include a different Indigenous language, so by the end of the UNESCO Decade of Indigenous Languages we will have ten different songs with potentially ten different Indigenous languages in Australia. turned on,” Pike said.
“It will be a wonderful catalog of songs and languages, documented and recorded, that will be part of the lives of children throughout their elementary school years.”
ILF CEO Ben Bowen, a proud Wiradjuri man, said: “It scares us that if we ask someone in Australia to say hello in another language, people can say 20 or 30 different ways in different languages.
“But if you then ask them to say hello in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language, you will usually hear silence.”
He said that the ILF does not receive government funding, so fundraising was critical to its success.
“Language is driven by the community, and when governments get involved, they can set up barriers to what languages should be funded, whereas we can actually work with the community to work on any language they like,” Mr. Bowen said.
He said that many of their communities can speak between four and 16 different languages and the ILF has been working with them to provide customized resources.
“As part of our program that we run, we have a book stock that comes out every year that supports about 120,000 books that are culturally significant, selected by the community for distribution to the communities,” Mr. Bowen said.
“We have book bars for kids ages 0-5, this is a really fun and engaging set of books that is now being distributed to around 103 communities.
“The third program is a community publishing that works with communities to write the story books they want to tell and illustrate them, and they are completely community driven and can be both language and bilingual.”
To register by June 30, visit buskingforchange.ilf.org.au
Registered schools will receive the following five books published by ILF for their school library:
No way, Yirrikipai! children from Milikapati school with Alison Lester.
No way, Yirrikipai! This is the story of a hungry crocodile who goes to Melville Island in search of food. Along the way, he encounters both terrestrial and marine animals. Written in Tiwi and English, this delightfully humorous book is beautifully illustrated and will appeal to people of all ages. It was written and developed in workshops led by Alison Lester, ILF Ambassador and former Children’s Laureate. Suggested retail price: $22.99
Hello Hello written by Remote Community Schools at Spinifex Writer’s Camp.
The family goes home on a dark night. It is difficult to see clearly – what is this shadow? And what is that noise? Flip through the pages of this intriguing and atmospheric book and join the family to discover what the dark night hides. Suggested retail price: $24.99
Jarrampa is written and illustrated by Marcia Cook with additional illustrations by Tamua Nugget and Kazarus Baker.
Jharramps are kerabines – they are very tasty to eat, but difficult to catch because of these claws. One elderly woman had a clever way of catching them: she put the meat between her toes and then stuck her feet into the billabong. When the jarampa began to nibble on the meat, she quickly gathered it into her skirts and placed it in a bucket. Later, the whole family gathered around the fire to share a delicious meal of jarampa. Suggested retail price: $24.99
Tudei en longtaim (Now and Then) written by Stella Raymond with illustrations by Binjari Book Mob.
Stella Raymond lives in Binjari, which is near Katherine in the Northern Territory. Travel back and forth in time in Stella Raymond’s fascinating book that compares Aboriginal life now with life in the past. Written in English and Kriol, Stella’s native language, this book is not only a glimpse into Aboriginal life at times, but also a language widely spoken in the upper part of Australia. Suggested retail price: $19.99
I Saw We Saw by Yolŋu students at Nhulunbuy Primary School with Ann James and Ann Haddon
A pleasure to read and explore with the opportunity to learn some of the words of the Yolu Math, the native language of the authors. This book provides a compelling look into the world of Yol’u students at Nhulunbui Primary School. Suggested retail price: $24.99
Note. The books are also available for purchase and all proceeds from sales go to support ILF publishing projects that work with remote children and communities across Australia. Buy from: shop.ilf.org.au
Originally published as Busking For Change: Australian Singers Support Fundraiser To Preserve Indigenous Languages