After nearly two decades, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) has officially named its building Maraga, a Ngunnawal word for a strong and robust shield.
AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie says the naming is both symbolic and significant, recognising and acknowledging the Ngunnawal land upon which AIATSIS sits and signalling the importance of embracing Indigenous languages.
“When AIATSIS relocated to the Acton Peninsula, it marked an exciting era for the Institute. Naming the building to Maraga not only reaffirms and strengthens our connection with the Ngunnawal people, it also highlights the importance of language for First Australians.”
AIATSIS consulted the United Ngunnawal Elders Council and the Winanggaay Ngunnawal Language Group who provided the building’s name, Maraga, which means a waddy shield, a tool of dual purpose offering the holder protection against the powerful waddy spear/club, and which can also be used as a coolamon to hold babies and carry food.
Winanggaay Ngunnawal Language Group Coordinator, Caroline Hughes says, “We are excited AIATSIS is naming its building Maraga. For our community this is a step closer to acknowledging that this land is ancient, and its features, waterways and landmarks have always had names.
“Ngunnawal has always been spoken here – but through policy and deliberate effort it diminished. Now, through hard work and the support of AIATSIS we are restoring it, remembering it, and speaking it.”
Mr Ritchie says naming the building Maraga is an outcome of AIATSIS’ commitment to the UN 2019 International Decade of Indigenous Languages and reinforces the outcomes of the National Indigenous Languages Survey by AIATSIS.
Mr Ritchie who was also the Co-Chair of the UNESCO Steering Committee preparing for the International Decade of Indigenous Languages says, “No language is lost. With this simple act of naming our building Maraga, we’re contributing to Indigenous languages being more prominent and visible in everyday life”.
AIATSIS continues to support communities and revitalising language. The National Indigenous Languages Survey found the benefits of languages for Indigenous peoples include positive economic outcomes across health, well-being, employment and education.