Often, early records for Australian languages provide important information on social life, cultural activities, and Indigenous knowledge. Where languages are no longer spoken daily today, these records can support efforts by Indigenous people to reconnect with heritage, especially in language revival projects that are becoming more common. From a research perspective, each source is more data towards understanding the local language, its history, and its relationship to other languages.
Bruce Pascoe, the author and intellectual, discussing the journals of William Thomas, a priceless collection of information about Victorian Aborigines from the late 1830s, notes that they are one of the most important primary sources in Australian history. “So who published his journals? A university, a government department, his church, a private researcher? No, the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages published the papers in 2014”. He goes on to note that George Augustus Robinson’s diaries, a similarly important set of primary manuscripts, were only published in the 1980s. “While settler reminiscences, football club centenaries and books on outback toilets found plenty of researchers and publishers, two of the most important texts on Aboriginal culture waited over two hundred years.” (Pascoe 2014: i-ii)
We can characterise this as Pascoe’s challenge, and will take up the challenge by building an online platform, Nyingarn, to increase the accessibility of primary sources for Australian languages which is vital for the growing interest in language and cultural revival.