No longer outsiders
By Sharna Steinert | Wycliffe Today Christmas 2023 |
Did you know that approximately 30% of the population in Victoria was born in another country? The term used to describe these people living outside of their homeland is ‘diaspora’. While some diaspora communities in Australia have literature and resources, most diaspora communities have few or no resources available to them in their own language.
In 2021, SIL Australia (SILA), Wycliffe Australia’s partner in language and culture training, conducted a research project to identify diaspora communities in the greater Melbourne area. The aim was to find communities that might be interested in partnering to develop resources in their languages.
SILA’s Principal Executive Officer, Graham Scott, and Operations Manager, Jack Hibbard, met with a community leader in the Dandenong area from the Hazaragi diaspora language group. This leader questioned them about their intentions, asking, ‘What do you get out of this?’ Graham and Jack explained the purpose of the project and their motivation for getting to know and come alongside the community if they were interested in developing their language. The man became less suspicious and more interested, inviting them to attend ‘Nowruz’, the Persian New Year celebration in Dandenong.
In March 2022, the Flourishing Communities team was able to hold a stall at Nowruz. They printed and distributed books in Hazaragi and two neighbouring languages, along with some New Testaments in another related language. The books were incredibly popular, with people of all ages requesting copies then sending their friends to get copies of their own! The team listened to stories and answered many questions about why they, as outsiders, were so interested in their languages.
In addition to the resources shared at the festival, members from the Hazara community, along with leaders from several other language groups SILA has been building relationships with, recently received language development training. SILA and SIL Pacific held the first phase of the ‘Language and Identity Journey’ workshop in September. It led participants through a series of activities to evaluate a language community’s current situation and consider actions to help preserve and grow their language resources in Australia.
SILA continues to develop a relationship with the Hazara community, again attending Nowruz in 2023. The Hazara community are now keen to progress to Phase 2 of the Language and Identity Journey course. We look forward to the continued partnership with the Hazara and encouraging other diaspora communities in the area in their language development goals. It is a joy to see these communities learning how to flourish in the languages that they value the most and start feeling more connected in the place they now call home.
MORE: Read more about Flourishing Communities at https://www.sila.org.au/flourishing/