Honour for Gavan Breen


Our warm congratulations to Gavan Breen, who was one of 45 Australians in 2016 to become an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia for his work in preserving indigenous languages.

As reported on the ABC and in the NT News.

Also see the NT News/Centralian Advocate interview with Gavan.

Gavan’s fieldnotes from his decades of work with language speakers have been digitised through a project co-ordinated by the Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity (RNLD).

RNLD linguist Margaret Florey says:

In 2014, RNLD worked with Gavan to digitise his handwritten field notes for 51 languages across western Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory and deposit the materials in the PARADISEC archive. In October 2012 and April 2013, Gavan went with DRIL trainers to Woorabinda community in central Queensland to reconnect with people whose languages he had recorded in the 60s and 70s. These were very moving trips for everyone. Bidyara, Gungabula and Gangalu people in Woorie were excited to work with Gavan, while Gavan was humbled to see his work being of use more than 40 years after he prepared the materials. He is still in contact with community members, and still preparing new materials to support language revitalisation.

Gavan and Batchelor Institute linguist Margaret Carew are collaborating on a publication project about one language that Gavan worked on  – Warluwarra, from the Georgina River district close to the NT/Queensland border. Gavan worked with Warluwarra people Ida Toby and her siblings Fred Age, George Age and Lily Clayton in the late 1960s and early 1970s, recording their knowledge and stories. He later prepared an analysis of the language for his Masters at Monash University. The book Warluwarra Stories will be published in 2016, with contributions from Keith Marshall and Paul Memmott.

Read an earlier profile of Gavan by ABC reporter Emma Sleath here.

Photo: David Hancock