An exciting development for Indigenous Australian translators

|By Barry Borneman| Wycliffe Today – March 2019|

In the 1990s, many Indigenous Australian translators benefited from an accredited Certificate in Translating, specifically developed and delivered by SIL as a means of improving their translation skills. It also provided encouragement and fellowship as they gathered with others involved in the work of translation. Many of these graduates not only translated the Scriptures but became leaders in the Church and remain influential Christian elders today.

The certificate lapsed around 2002 as educational red tape and compliance in the TAFE sector made maintaining and delivering the course too difficult. For some time there have been growing voices to create the same opportunity for a new generation. Maratja Dhamarrandji, a Bible translator from Elcho Island and one of the first graduating students in the 90s, puts it this way:

When a plant is in a pot, sometimes the roots don’t go very deep. But when you take it out of the pot and put it into natural soil, it becomes a good tree with the best kind of fruit. That is like the translated Word of God – it bears a lot of fruit. When you think about it, that’s powerful stuff! . . . It’s like Jesus coming to be an Aboriginal person – knowing the people, feeling their hurts, their pain, their whole identity. The Creator God coming down and engaging with people, communicating to the people in the language that they can understand.

Maratja’s prayer and those of other Indigenous leaders has now been answered. A new Diploma of Translation starts this year at Nungalinya College,of which Maratja is a current Board member.

The initial impetus to restart a translation course came from translators in Arnhem Land and Coordinate – an indigenous Bible translation arm of the Uniting Church, Northern Territory. The Bible Society of Australia was quick to support this initiative and together with Nungalinya College, Wycliffe Australia, AuSIL, CMS and the NT Anglican Diocese, a partnership has been formed. It did not take long for us together to commit the funds and personnel needed to deliver this course for the next three years. It has been a great joint effort and we very much sense that this is a work of the Holy Spirit.

The initial enrolments have been very encouraging. Please be in prayer for the staff and the first cohort of students  as they begin classes this term. Later in the year, we also want to run a couple of translation workshops in remote communities. These will not be accredited but they will be important in exposing a wider group of people to training in translation.


If you wish to be involved financially in supporting the Diploma in Translation, there are a number of ways you can do so. You can give directly to Wycliffe’s Next Step Development project (NT) 8331. However, if you already have connections with Nungalinya College, Coordinate, or the Bible Society, they are also receiving funds for this program. We are together looking to the Lord to provide.

Thanks for your patience...

Waiting is hard, isn't it. But imagine waiting 2000 years for Scripture in your language! Thanks for your patience. And thanks for your generous support which will help bring the long wait to an end...