Research Assistant to Prof. Jakelin Troy, University of Sydney

My current sociolinguistic research has been tremendously informed through some experience working alongside Professor Jakelin Troy, Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research at The University of Sydney, where I was a Visiting Scholar for the month of August 2016.

Jaky is a linguist, an educator and an Indigenous Australian of the Ngarigu people, Snowy Mountains, who has been both innovative and entrepreneurial in the development of Indigenous language revival initiatives. I was drawn to her after she completed the new Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages, a curriculum giving all Australian children access to learning Indigenous Australian languages.

My interests involving how the performance of first languages can impact language ideologies drove me to work with Jaky on research and a report titled Possibilities through Performance: Putting Performance on the National Language Revival Agenda. This aim of this report was to provide examples of performance of Indigenous Australian languages as cases for language continuation and reconfiguration. Due to the short period of time together, it was only a background paper which hoped to influence research and programme design as part of a new Indigenous language development at the University of Sydney.

My research questions included a) How can practice involving performed indigenous spoken language inform initial strategy development within the (confidential development) at the University of Sydney?; b) What are the ways it could be informed? i.e.: educational frameworks, collaborative models, programme design; and finally, c) What current practice offers evidence for this?

Included in this report, I put forward examples of performances in Indigenous languages in Yirra Yaakin’s Sonnets in Noongar as well as Bangarra Dance Theatre’s production of Patyegarang.

My time spent with Jaky was rewarding not just in terms of the research but as an outcome of the rich conversations that were had in the hall, over lunch and the occasional evening drink. Jaky is the type of person who really sees people, and goes out of her way to make sure that all ventures that she undertakes involve reciprocal learning processes, reaching far beyond the expectations of all of her interlocutors.

Claire French is a performance maker and researcher, specialising in multilingual, applied and autobiographical performance.

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