Report by Annalee Pope
The Festival of the Pacific Arts is held every four years and brings together artists and cultural practitioners from the 27 Pacific Islands nations and territories. This year the 12th Pacific Arts Festival took place in Guam, USA. The theme for this year's Festival is;
"Håfa Iyo-ta, Håfa Guinahå-ta, Håfa Ta Påtte, Dinanña' Sunidu Siha Giya Pasifiku"
"What We Own, What We Have, What We Share, United Voices of the Pacific"
During the festival, an Indigenous Languages Conference was held at the University of Guam on the 27th and 28th of May. This inaugural conference provided an opportunity for all indigenous people to discuss the preservation, revival and maintenance of their indigenous languages.
First Languages Australia was invited to present at this conference on the milestones in language restoration, revitalization and preservation. I was asked to attend to represent the Young Language Champions and to talk about my experience with language work.
The conference began with keynote speaker the Honourable Dr Robert Underwood. Dr Underwood is currently the president of the University of Guam. He is a distinguished scholar with many publications to his credit on educational issues, political matters and language change. And, has been an active advocate for the extension of educational and social opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Following Dr Underwood, Dr Apolonia Tamata of Fiji gave another powerful speech to the audience. Dr Tamata is an advocate for Indigenous languages and spearheads the iTaukei Trust fund's mandate to support, promote and fund research and programmes in Fijian Language, Culture and Heritage. Both of these keynote speakers were an inspiration to me, their passion for their languages was refreshing and uplifting.
Paul Paton and I delivered the presentation on behalf of First Languages Australia and Young Language Champions. The presentation covered First Languages Australia's role as the national body to identify state, national and international policies and issues impacting on Australia's first languages. We showcased success stories and publications that enable our peoples to revive, maintain and develop our languages. The presentation was well received by the audience with many questions following.
This festival was an amazing experience, and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to attend. The languages, art, dance, song and cultures of many different Pacific Islander nations and territories were on display. This festival has also shown me that Australia is a leading country in language revival in our region. Many smaller nations and territories can benefit from our experiences, policies and procedures in language revival.
Paul Paton from First Languages Australia giving his presentation