By Cath Edwards
On Sunday 27th November, 2022, at Footscray Community Arts Centre, advocacy group ViệtSpeak will proudly host a special Language and Community Symposium.
It is a gathering for people to come together and share experiences of language, family, community and connection and will explore the importance of language in fostering personal and cultural identity, as well as relationships between language and place.
ViệtSpeak is an advocacy group in Melbourne’s west dedicated to promoting languages spoken in the community, language teaching programs and revitalisation. They focus on Vietnamese, as well as support revitalisation efforts of other languages, such as First Nations Australian languages. ViệtSpeak envisions a community that embraces all peoples and gives everyone a space to be themselves and express themselves freely.
The Symposium will host panel discussions on language revitalisation and its role in resisting colonisation and cultural erasure, providing attendees the opportunity to hear from a variety of special guest speakers from different cultural backgrounds, including dedicated language educators and advocates.
Chau Cong is currently a French language teacher at Camberwell Primary School and was the co-coordinator of the award-winning bilingual Vietnamese-English program at Footscray Primary School. Chau worked as a broadcaster for SBS Vietnamese in the 1990s and as a young mother, discovered her passion for learning languages, studying French and Japanese.
Arriving in Australia as a Vietnamese refugee in the 1970s, Cuc Lam worked as a translator and English teacher for the United Nations High Commission. She was later the principal of the Kensington Van Lang Vietnamese Language School between 1985-2001. In this time Cuc observed many of the challenges that community language schools face, including shortage of volunteers and lack of funding. She continues to advocate for the value of community languages in her role as a City of Maribynong Councillor.
ViệtSpeak is also proud to welcome Dr. Vicki Couzens, a First Nations Gundijmara person from the Western districts of Victoria. Dr. Couzens has worked in Aboriginal community affairs for almost 40 years. She is dedicated to linguistic and cultural revitalisation and is a Senior Knowledge Custodian for Possum Skin Cloak Story and Language Reclamation and Revival in her mother tongue Keerray Woorroong. Dr. Couzens is currently developing a research project at RMIT with the key objective of reinvigorating Aboriginal ways of knowing, being and doing, focusing on language revitalisation.
Other exciting features of the day include kite and book making workshops for young families to immerse themselves in the fun and rich ways language and culture are expressed.
The gathering welcomes everyone interested in languages and revitalisation to attend. It will be a valuable opportunity for people to share what language means to them and their families, learn from others about the role of language in their lives, and think about how language could help strengthen inclusive, multicultural communities in Melbourne.