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10 Years of RNLD

(This is an archived page from 2014 that is not updated)



28 July 2014 marks the 10 year anniversary of the Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity.

On that day in 2004, Margaret Florey and Nick Thieberger sent out the first email launching the RNLD mailing list. That message aimed to begin building a network between language activists of all backgrounds working to strengthen linguistic diversity. RNLD has grown immensely in the ten years since the founders launched this international organisation to advance the sustainability of the world's Indigenous languages. We have remained true to this mission and RNLD has provided a focal point for the community of people who are developing innovative strategies around the world to document and revitalise Indigenous languages. Amongst our achievements, we are proud to note that:

the RNLD web site provides a wealth of information and resources for people involved in language documentation and revitalisation activities,

the email discussion list continues to provide a unique forum for people to exchange information and ideas and to share advice about all aspects of language work. It now has almost 500 subscribers,

more than 1,600 people are members of our Facebook group, while our Twitter following is over 800, and

on the ground, Documenting and Revitalising Indigenous Languages training workshops have been run with approximately 360 Indigenous participants in 31 locations across all states and territories. The DRIL program has now supported 75 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

To commemorate our ten year milestone we interviewed different people about their involvement with RNLD. We talked to them about how they first heard about RNLD, the ways in which they were involved with RNLD, how RNLD has helped their language work, and how they would describe RNLD. Excerpts from those interviews are below.


DRIL Participants

Michelle Warren

Dieri language

Port Augusta, South Australia

Brendan Kennedy

Madhi Madhi, Wadi Wadi languages

Swan Hill, Victoria

Anthony Henry

Barada, Birri-Gubba languages

Woorabinda, Queensland

Estelle Miller

Wirangu language

Ceduna, South Australia

Annalee Pope

Waka Waka, Gureng gureng languages

Bundaberg, Queensland

'It's given our younger kids an opportunity to feel like they're involved and given them permission to use words and be active, and be involved in the language program. It's not just for the older people.'

'The way Margaret delivers the training feels like it's easing into it as both the student and the teacher. That's what I've found is appealing, and what other members in our group have found as well.'

'That process of hunting for our language. We had never looked at it that way before, that we're hunting our language.'


'It's given me the knowledge that at least I can keep researching, that the language isn't lost to me. Although I don't have an Elder readily available to me to check pronunciation, I can at least attempt sounding the word, and if I do find someone to check with later. So I know that language is open for me, and I know the knowledge that we've learnt we can give other people and see if they want to find their skills as well.'


'We've been building our own language programs around it and our own knowledge around the linguistics side of things and hopefully looking to share it out to other community members who want to get involved with language.' 'The model of guided independent teaching style I've applied through everything. I've been redesigning my language lessons for my language nest to suit that model of guided independence, and it's really good.'

Maya Shioji

Yawuru language

Broome, Western Australia

Roko Shioji

Yawuru language

Broome, Western Australia

Gina Albert

Yawuru language

Broome, Western Australia

Ema Bovoro

Adnyamathanha language

Adelaide, South Australia

Salote Bovoro

Adnyamathanha language

Adelaide, South Australia


'I explained to our linguist the workshop we did, and he's taken on a bit about doing the Master-Apprentice, so at the moment he talks in Yawuru as much as he can to us here in the office, so he's trying to almost do a language nest here in the office.'


'I teach with Years 4,5, and 6, and I find the Master-Apprentice very useful. I've used it in the classroom and I find that the kids are learning a lot of the language they use everyday in the classroom much easier by using Master-Apprentice.' 'Master-Apprentice is a little fun activity and when you do fun stuff, you remember it more.' 'It's helped us be a little bit more confident in speaking with the Elders, and helping to gain vocabulary, and writing books and stuff like that.' 'It helps provide programs for you to better your language skills.'

Sharon Atkinson

Yorta Yorta language

Shepparton, Victoria

Glennis Galbat-Newry

Miriwoong language

Kununurra, Western Australia

Knut Olawsky

Kununurra, Western Australia

Jodie Maymuru

Boreen Point, Queensland

Leeann Merritt and Rosalie Jones

Wajarri language

Geraldton, Western Australia

'For people who are very eager to respond to language, especially in language revival, I would say that RNLD has very helpful resources and support to get communities up and going towards learning their language. And it has a community friendly atmosphere.' 'I've learnt about preparing resources for teaching lessons and other skills from other trainers from other places so it was interesting for me.'


'RNLD with its DRIL program has come up with a curriculum of different modules that is really designed to help Indigenous language workers conduct their language work. So, starting from how to use recording equipment and introducing new and practical equipment, down to language analysis and practical topics that have to do with our day to day work.'


'RNLD's training model is really flexible. Just being able to work with communities on what they wanted and needed depending on what stage they're at. Because everyone's got different needs.' 'Happy birthday RNLD! Nhurra barndi? Nganajungu Rosalie in Geraldton. Nganajungu Leann in Geraldton. Keep up the good work! Barndi!'


RNLD's Founders and Friends

Margaret Florey


DRIL Director

Nick Thieberger


PARADISEC, University of Melbourne

Stephen Morey


La Trobe University

Ruth Singer

LIP Coordinator

University of Melbourne

Felicity Houwen

RNLD Outreach Officer and Volunteer Coordinator

'It's been very rewarding to be part of RNLD's development through the past ten years. When Nick and I first identified the need for a network and a centralised resource base, we had no idea that RNLD would grow so quickly. Our outreach services reach different groups of people through the mail list, Facebook and Twitter. We now get input and responses from people around the world with a wide range of backgrounds and interests.

Creating the DRIL training program has been a very exciting part of RNLD's work. Through the past 5 years, we have met many wonderful people who are working hard to sustain or revitalise their languages. It's been wonderful to be able to develop a program that supports that work.'

'RNLD came about because we recognised that there were lots of common questions that people had and there needed to be some way  of providing resources so you could find out what was going on, and what kinds of tools and methods were being used. There wasn't any sort of central agency that was providing that sort of information, so Margaret and I wanted to get something organised.'

'The mailing list has been really important, and there's nothing else like it, and the web site is a point of reference, so I think all of that has been excellent.'

'RNLD is an organisation primarily made up of linguists that are doing work on documentation and working with Indigenous languages, small languages and endangered languages all around the world. It is based in Australia, but has an international connection. RNLD also has a major project for language work in Indigenous languages in Australia.'

'I've always had pretty good answers to everything I've asked on the RNLD mailing list and I ask a few questions. There are others who do and there are people who talk about all kinds of things, and it has been very useful.'

'The RNLD list is great for people who work in language documentation, or who are connected to language documentation as language activists and that kind of thing, to become connected to one another. Because one of the things you realise is that in Melbourne we're quite lucky in that there's lots of us doing the same thing and we talk to each other, but there's a lot of people out there working in language documentation who don't have anyone around them to talk to.'

'It has been really exciting to see RNLD's growth in all aspects of the organisation over the three years I've been here. When I first started I was interviewed by Margaret in her home office, and now I work with five other staff and three volunteers!

The social media profile has grown exponentially and it has been fantastic to hear from people all over the world who have shared goals and interests in language documentation and revitalisation.'

Lauren Gawne

LIP Coordinator and RNLD consultant

Nanyang Technological University

Jessica Solla

RNLD Volunteer

John Hobson

Koori Centre, University of Sydney

Greg Dickson

ANU, Ngukurr Language Centre

Randy LaPolla

Nanyang Technological University

'I'm always poking around on the RNLD website for good tips on conferences, tools and news on language documentation.'

'I started out attending LIP and learning from the experiences of colleagues who had spent more time in the field than I had. The more time I spent working with Yolmo speakers in Nepal for my PhD the more I was able to apply what we had discussed, and think critically about my role as a fieldworking linguist.'

'I'm an Arts student studying Linguistics and Indigenous Studies, and the work that RNLD does is quite exciting, and quite relevant to my own interests, so I thought while I was doing my Honours this year it would be a good opportunity to get some experience in an organisation like this.' 'RNLD is an organisation looking at the preservation of small languages, particularly Indigenous languages. And while it's international in its scope, it has a clear Australian focus, and is Australian based, and in that context, it's the major provider of community level education in linguistics, language documentation and conservation work.'

'We put a call out on the mailing list that was urgent and RNLD is the best for that. We needed something quick and we needed the info and we just got such a great response.'

'RNLD is a good connecting point for information and resources for whoever is interested in supporting language. I definitely like that not only does the DRIL program have a national focus, but that RNLD's goal is to have an international focus as well, which is unique for Australian language organisations.'

'I would like to say congratulations to RNLD, and say how much I appreciate RNLD, for keeping up to date with the state of the art on documentation technology and practice, notices about events, such as Linguistics in the Pub (I can no longer go to the events but I find the summaries and references given with the announcements useful), and the solving of problems of different types that many of us face in documenting languages.

All the best on the next ten years!'