John Giacon’s decades-long dedication to the revitalisation of indigenous languages has been a sometimes difficult but ultimately rewarding pursuit.
The Australian National University lecturer and researcher’s work saw him recognised last week with the the Patji-Dawes Award – Australia’s top honour for language teaching.
“I used to be a schoolteacher and I think this is probably way more valuable than teaching people mathematics and coaching football teams,” Dr Giacon said.
Dr Giacon first started working on Gamilaraay and the closely-related Yuwaalaraay after moving to Walgett in northern New South Wales in 1994.
With the help and blessing of Uncle Ted Fields, now deceased, the Christian Brother travelled the nearby bush and documented vocabulary lists.
After instituting a language program at a Walgett school with some success, Dr Giacon worked to organise community language meetings in nearby towns where he shared language, teaching strategies and curriculum.
While working in the communities he witnessed the restorative power of language.
Read more: The Canberra Times