New Bush Telegraph Independent Stories since 1987

Spreading the Dhurga Word

July 25, 2020

Chris Grounds


This short item is about some positive Indigenous news, which should be very welcome in the broader Shoalhaven and south coast community.

It concerns a new book “The Dhurga Dictionary and Learner’s Grammar – A south-east coast, NSW Aboriginal language” by Patricia Ellis, Kerry Boyenga and Waine Donovan. It has been published by Aboriginal Studies Press and is fresh off the press this year.

Two women and a man stand side by side in library holding Dhurga dictionary
The authors from left: Kerry Boyenga, Patricia Ellis and Waine Donovan at the launch of the Dhurga dictionary.
Photo credit: ABC South East NSW, Vanessa Milton

This book deals with the Dhurga language of the Yuin linked south coast and a map sets out that geographical association. Readers can also discover the background of the authors and it is no ordinary book author story though it can be extended with the ABC story web linked below.

The best way to appreciate and enjoy this important book is to buy a copy from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies as its best use will be as a constant reference in your personal library. It is not just a read on an overcast Covid day though such a day will be a good time to start or continue the journey this book has created, year after year. 

The immense value of the book relates to the importance of traditional language to Aboriginal people and especially to the history of subjugation, subordination and assimilation by the attempts to forcefully remove Aboriginal people from their languages.

The book presents much more than just a dictionary of Dhurga words but involves the reader in  learning of translation Dhurga to English and reverse, pronunciation, spelling, sentence building, word creation and language structures, all specific to Dhurga.

This all speaks to the education and teaching background of the authors and the links to the various schools, students, teachers and community who have contributed. Actually, reading of the creation of the book, who was involved and how they were, is one of the most absorbing stories presented in the book as it is the story of gifted and determined Aboriginal people working together in both a family and professional context, to restore Aboriginal culture and thus deny and repair prior damage inflicted on the core culture of Aboriginal people. Such restoration is truly heartening. Of course it does raise the question of why such restoration is necessary?

As non-Aboriginal people we still face a massive learning task regarding Aboriginal culture and history, our own history but this book will take us all a long, long way along that road and in a very non-threatening and enjoyable manner.

Congratulations to Patricia, Kerry and Waine and everyone associated with it.  This book is an outstanding achievement at a very high standard.

The book was the subject of an ABC feature story which can be seen at:

P.S. I do know our old NBT mate Pat, an author and publisher in his own right, would be thoroughly impressed by both the subject and the standard of the actual publication. With a nod to you Pat.

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    3 comments on “Spreading the Dhurga Word”

    1. A Big Congratulations and Thank you to all the people involved in the research, writing and sharing of this essential knowledge and cultural tradition. For remaining resilient and adaptable through the shock of genocide, tyranny, exploitation and inequity. The nurturing, the sharing and the caring within strong families gives these words breath to look, listen and learn through the coming generations of leaders we will all follow on our journey home. Being the keepers and makers of our World Heritage, represented in the pages of this book that brings to life in our life time, through ancestral connections, the true words that continue to be learned. These words will help us to truly express ourselves, to see and hear ourselves again through the beauty of a language that gives voice to this beautiful landscape, we will now hear and understand ourselves better in the context of these words that emanate from this beautiful and powerful Aboriginal Country and homeland. I am proud to be a father of Gunyun children, the publishing of this important book for mine and all our children together, within our shared future, gives me hope in the fact that the best is yet too come.

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