Bringing back the forgotten tongue

LOSING TRANSLATION: Cherbourg mayor Ken Bone said the native languages have fallen victim to the past.
LOSING TRANSLATION: Cherbourg mayor Ken Bone said the native languages have fallen victim to the past. Keagan Elder

THE native languages spoken in Cherbourg are at risk of getting washed away by time.

Mayor of Cherbourg Ken Bone, born in 1946, witnessed firsthand the eradication of the Wakka Wakka language from his community.

"I went to school in the 1950s, we weren't allowed to speak it in school," Cr Bone said.

"Even the elders weren't allowed to speak it loudly.

"When you're in school, you had to be careful of what you said," he said.

If students were caught speaking the local tongue, they would face canings and being labelled a "my-all" Cr Bone said.

"It means you're a dumb black fella," he said.

"Nobody dared talk about the language. There was no Aboriginal language taught in school."

However, Cr Bone would like to see the heritage of the Wakka Wakka people in Cherbourg kept alive.

"If there is anybody out there (who knows Wakka Wakka), put your hand up," he said.

Cr Bone can barely talk his own language as a result, knowing only a few songs sung in secret and passed along the generations.

"My grandmother knew it and my mother knew how to speak it too," Cr Bone said.

"I think the opportunity was there, but people were too scared to pass it on.

"I wish I would've picked it up (the Wakka Wakka language)."

Nowadays, Wakka Wakka is spoken by few within the Cherbourg community.

"It's probably 98% extinct," Cr Bone said.

He said it was a reminder of the people of Cherbourg's past and has resided to that being a fact.

"It's good to be reminded of the past, but the past wasn't filled with lollies," Cr Bone said.

"You just get on with life and live the way white people wanted you to live.

"In time, we're turning things around, we're learning new skills to carry on."

South Burnett

Topics:  aboriginal affairs cherbourg language

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