Poster boy for reconciliation

Jorgen Ford. Photo by Kelly Warden

NOONGAR man and Walyalup local Jorgen Ford is breaking down stigma and reclaiming his knowledge of the Noongar language, while educating people along the way. 

Each month, Mr Ford has been creating educational posters featuring new Noongar words and their English translation, then sticking them up on public toilets around Fremantle. 

His posters, which remind people which of the six Noongar seasons they’re in, is Mr Ford’s first step in his vision to create signage that explains the world around us in Noongar. 

“A lady said she listened to an acknowledgement and welcome to country and she understood a lot of what the words meant because she’d been keeping up with my posters,” he said.

Mr Ford is teaching himself to speak Noongar, as his parents were prohibited from practising their language and culture while forced to live on missions.

“There’s a stigma put around speaking Noongar,” he says, adding it’s something he contends with every day to make sure his messages get out into the public.  

When putting up his posters, Mr Ford has experienced verbal attacks from shop owners and passers-by; he says that’s evidence of an entrenched stigmatisation that dates back to mission times.

“They said, ‘fuck you and your Noongar language’,” he said. 

Movies he watched growing up furthered the stigmatisation of Aboriginal languages, because of the derogatory ways in which Indigenous people were represented. 

During his diploma of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Science, Mr Ford investigated the stigmatisation of Aboriginal languages, and how this caused continues to perpetuate trauma in the lives of First Nations people.

“If you take a person’s language from them, you take their pride from them, [and] you take their confidence,” he said. 

“You take their inclusion from them, and then they feel excluded from modern-day society, especially if the majority of modern-day society is non-Indigenous”. 

He says re-integrating Noongar language into everyday vocabulary, and renaming landmarks to reflect their Noongar heritage, can help create an environment conducive to healing the trauma endured by Indigenous people. 

Mr Ford supports renaming Kings Square to Midgegeroo Square after the Noongar chieftain.

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