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Type: Journal article
Title: "Language breathes life" - Barngarla community perspectives on the wellbeing impacts of reclaiming a dormant Australian Aboriginal language
Author: Sivak, L.
Westhead, S.
Richards, E.
Atkinson, S.
Richards, J.
Dare, H.
Zuckermann, G.
Gee, G.
Wright, M.
Rosen, A.
Walsh, M.
Brown, N.
Brown, A.
Citation: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2019; 16(20):1-17
Publisher: MDPI AG
Issue Date: 2019
ISSN: 1660-4601
Statement of
Leda Sivak, Seth Westhead, Emmalene Richards, Stephen Atkinson, Jenna Richards, Harold Dare, Ghil, ad Zuckermann, Graham Gee, Michael Wright, Alan Rosen, MichaelWalsh, Ngiare Brown and Alex Brown
Abstract: Traditional languages are a key element of Indigenous peoples’ identity, cultural expression, autonomy, spiritual and intellectual sovereignty, and wellbeing. While the links between Indigenous language loss and poor mental health have been demonstrated in several settings, little research has sought to identify the potential psychological benefits that may derive from language reclamation. The revival of the Barngarla language on the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia, offers a unique opportunity to examine whether improvements in mental health and social and emotional wellbeing can occur during and following the language reclamation process. This paper presents findings from 16 semi-structured interviews conducted with Barngarla community members describing their own experienced or observed mental health and wellbeing impacts of language reclamation activities. Aligning with a social and emotional wellbeing framework from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective, key themes included connection to spirituality and ancestors; connection to Country; connection to culture; connection to community; connection to family and kinship; connection to mind and emotions; and impacts upon identity and cultural pride at an individual level. These themes will form the foundation of assessment of the impacts of language reclamation in future stages of the project.
Keywords: Australia; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health; social and emotional wellbeing; indigenous language; revivalistics
Rights: © 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (
DOI: 10.3390/ijerph16203918
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