QCoal Foundation helps preserve the Yangga language in QLD

(L-R) Linguist Dr Angela Terrill, QCoal Foundation chief executive Sylvia Bhatia, Jangga Elder Col McLennan and archaeologist Liz Hatte.
(L-R) Linguist Dr Angela Terrill, QCoal Foundation chief executive Sylvia Bhatia, Jangga Elder Col McLennan and archaeologist Liz Hatte.

Members of the Jangga community recently gathered in Townsville, Queensland, to launch the Let’s Talk Yangga Language Resurgence Project, developed with the support of the QCoal Foundation.

Wodjawodja bimbi Yangga, Let’s Talk Yangga, is the culmination of a nearly 18-month collaboration to safeguard the rich cultural and linguistic heritage of the Jangga people in Central Queensland.

Revered Jangga Elder, Col McLennan, the last fluent speaker of his language, worked closely with linguist Angela Terrill and archaeologist Liz Hatte, powered by the support of the QCoal Foundation, to meticulously document the Yangga language so it remains a living and thriving language for generations to come.

The project involved recording the Yangga language, mostly on country, and the creation of resources to preserve the language for future generations.

It will facilitate dispersing and teaching of the language to future generations of Jangga people with the aim of ensuring the language’s overall survival.

Jangga Elder Col McLennan and Jangga children.
Jangga Elder Col McLennan and Jangga children.

A Let’s Talk Yangga website is capturing Uncle Col’s profound knowledge to prevent the loss of the language and spark its resurgence.

The website will serve as a repository for the Yangga language and help foster a meaningful connection for the Jangga people to their cultural heritage.

It will contain the names of plants whose characteristics may include food, implements and weapons, medicines and ritual and spiritual elements.

Vocabulary will be presented in dictionary format with images to enhance meaning and understanding.

The website will also include pronunciation guides and recordings of Uncle Col saying the words and singing the songs.

Uncle Col says he is very proud to be part of this project.

“As a senior Elder of the Jangga people and a fluent speaker of the language, I want to pass on my knowledge to the younger generations to keep the language alive,” he said.

“Language is a critical component of culture and I hope the project will develop a greater sense of identity and pride in Jangga culture and increase the likelihood of our culture surviving and regenerating.

“Once I started working on this project, I was able to remember more words and songs so I am grateful for the support to capture these for our people.”

Jangga Elder Col McLennan shows Jangga community members the Let’s Talk Yangga website.
Jangga Elder Col McLennan shows Jangga community members the Let’s Talk Yangga website.

QCoal Foundation chief executive Sylvia Bhatia says the QCoal Foundation is delighted to support Let’s Talk Yangga, which fills a key gap in the capture of language from Jangga country.

“Until now there was only very limited recording of the language so we commend the Jangga team and senior elder Colin McLennan for their work to bring this project to fruition,” Ms Bhatia said.

“We hope this website will be an important learning tool for current and future generations of Jangga people and will enhance the preservation of their culture and stories.”

Dr Terrill says Let’s Talk Yangga brings together much of what is known of the language in one website.

“We see situations of language loss of First Nations languages all over Australia, but we also see so many examples of strong languages, and languages being preserved and reawakened all over the continent,” she said.

“Thanks to Colin’s amazing memory we are able to record information on the Yangga language that would otherwise be lost.

“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to record the Yangga language, to pass on the knowledge to future generations and keep the language alive.”

UNESCO has declared this decade the International Decade of Indigenous languages, to focus on the importance of preserving the world’s rich cultural heritage.

QCoal Foundation supported the project with a $15,000 Community Growth grant.

Since early 2023, experienced linguist Dr Angela Terrill has been recording the language (including songs) with Col McLennan.

Much of the language recording was completed on Jangga country. In addition, a trip to a local primary school’s Indigenous Garden to survey recent language-related activity was a rich source of inspiration on the relationship between language and culture.

The language is now known as Yangga as that is understood to be the original name and aligns with the correct pronunciation. The people and country are known as Jangga.