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Language – the salient ingredient to spirituality

Madelaine Dickie -

Arrivals at Canberra Airport's international terminal will now be greeted by a Ngunnawal Welcome to Country.

The welcome was recorded by Traditional Owners in Ngunnawal, the traditional language of the ACT, and features an introduction and translation in English as well.

Ngunnawal Traditional Owner Caroline Hughes said this new initiative is a mark of cultural recognition and reconciliation.

"Our language is the key to all our relationships and how we interact with each other. It is the salient ingredient to spirituality, lore, law and retaining our cultural identity and connection," Ms Hughes said.

"Growing up we could never share our language with non-Indigenous people. Language was to be kept secret to keep us safe ... Today, I am proud to share our language, welcoming visitors from around Australia and the world, who come to our traditional Country and to continue their journey safely."

Canberra Airport CEO Stephen Byron said he wants visitors to the ACT to appreciate the full history of the region.

"Being welcomed to Canberra in Ngunnawal, by Traditional Owners, is an important and memorable first step for visitors arriving in Canberra and sets the foundation for a more enriching visit," Mr Byron said.

The CEO said he hopes the Ngunnawal Welcome to Country will connect visitors with the ACT's long, continuing Indigenous history.

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) CEO Craig Ritchie said this new greeting is a huge milestone in revitalising Ngunnawal language and culture.

Mr Ritchie, who is also Co-Chair of the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages Committee, said it is especially timely during the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

"The Ngunnawal community have been working tirelessly to revitalise and share their language and AIATSIS is proud to help with this through the Ngunnawal Language Project," Mr Ritchie said.

"We are delighted that visitors to Canberra Airport will now be greeted in Ngunnawal, particularly in 2019, the International Year of Indigenous Languages," Mr Ritchie said.

The Ngunnawal Welcome to Country was officially launched at Canberra Airport on July 9.


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