Tradition meets Technology
Dimension Data Newsletter, 2007
Of more than 250 indigenous languages once spoken throughout Australia, only 20 remain secure today.
One of the lost languages, Awabakal, spoken by the Awabakal people originally living near Newcastle, had not been spoken for more than 150 years. In an effort to revive the language, the Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association (ACRA) fromed and work started to create a language database.
Pratical limitations within the database led to Microsoft's involvement, who approached Dimension Data for a solution to make the database more widely accessible. Also essentail was a system which did not rely heavily on external resources such as linguists for a large component of the work, empowering Aboriginal organisations themselves to retain ownership of the resource.
Dimension Data migrated the existing database to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 as part of Microsoft's Early Adoption Program. Working with ACRA, Dimension Data designed the interface, mapped out the architecture and developed the functionality of the database.
As a result, the new database features: multimedia functionality for words (eg audio files for pronunciation); word lists (general or filtered): security restricting access to certain words for cultural reasons; and tailored functionality depending on the user eg student, linguist or indigenous language worker.
Daryn McKenny, ACRA's General Manager, added:
"Around Australia, in the majority of language reclamation and revitilisation projects, academics are doing the work using their own language tools. What we're doing is providing the ability for our people to actually do the work, thereby empowering ourselves, providing employment to our people, and reducing project costs. Indigenous people have never had this oppurtunity before, and now by using IT we can achieve this."