KARNARJ WONGIN is Nyoongar for talking truth and it’s the moniker for a black-tie dinner raising funds for a program reconnecting Aboriginal young people to their culture and language.
Bush tucker by internationally renownd indigenous chef Mark Olive will be spiced with the fast-paced humour of Kevin Kropinyeri and local musicians Amanda Dee and Soothe.
The money will go to Headspace Fremantle’s Wellness Through Connection to Country Program: “[Providing] our youth with an avenue to explore their identity, culture, language and country to help foster wellness,” Mr Olive says.
Urban life has made it hard for young Aboriginal people to easily access their traditional culture and ancestral languages, which leading to identity issues and a cultural vacuum, Headspace manager Lara Steel says.
“Young people need to successfully navigate questions of identity and where they fit in the social fabric to become thriving adults.”
There are a number of great cultural programs, but funding tends to be sporadic and at the whim of government priorities, she says.
“We’re about creating a sustainable program through diverse funding sources so that the initiative is supported at a grass-roots community level, independent of governmental changes.”
Nyoongar language is recognised as endangered, so it’s important to bring it back from the brink, and at the same time empower young speakers, Ms Steel says.
Canadian research has found language is an important tool in reducing suicide among indigenous youth, she says.
“Where they don’t have cultural continuity and language, suicide is very high.”
Along with language classes the program gives young people regular access to cultural activities, and cultural mentoring with trusted elders and senior community figures.
Headspace Fremantle is based in Pakenham Street, operated through 360 Health and Community.
It’s available to all young people, aged 12 to 25: “Our mandate is reducing barriers for young people accessing services,” Ms Steel says.
The Karnarj Wongin dinner is on Saturday September 17. For tickets type it into a search engine and follow the links.
by JENNY D’ANGER