Guest Article - Noongarpedia


The Committee for Perth’s Reconciliation Action Plan has been created with a central theme - that Perth should be the city in Australia that acknowledges, respects and celebrates Aboriginal people and their culture.

A new online project will help to facilitate reconciliation and one of its leaders, Ingrid Cumming shares the background to Noongarpedia.

As a Wadjuk Noongar woman I’m proud that we have the longest continuing culture in the world. We are survivors and arguably the most resilient culture on earth. Interestingly, Wikipedia claims to be the sum of all knowledge but until recently they didn’t have any information about the 38,000 Noongars living in Western Australia. That’s how Noongarpedia, Australia’s first Indigenous Wikipedia was born, to fill that knowledge gap.

The idea behind Noongarpedia is that it’s a collaborative project to add Noongar language content to Wikimedia projects. We’ve broken the Wiki down into five topics; Country, which includes places, landscape, flora, tribal groups and trading patterns; Narrative, stories from everyday life, domestic, urban industrial and regional; Music, both traditional and modern; Popular culture, including Gen Next, and emergent knowledge, we’re all about celebrating the old and contemporary aspects of Noongar culture; Citizenship, which includes public knowledge and the exchange of it, ranging from Welcome to Countries to international first peoples’ forums.

For me Noongarpedia is an important part of the reconciliation, education and collaboration journey that we all continue to walk. For thousands of years our culture has been constantly adapting and evolving and we’ll continue to do that and we want to share that journey.

Since the arrival of the wadjellas (non-indigenous people) there have been a lot of opportunities to better understand Aboriginal culture and how it is not only valuable to our culture but to all Australians. Did you know, there are 14 different Noongar groups in the South West? We’re all different mobs with different stories. We have a strong history of interactive learning, using holistic medicines and the medicinal properties in wildflowers. There’s a whole world of knowledge we haven’t yet saturated into Australian culture. Noongarpedia gives us a chance to share that information with the world.

While the majority of the content comes from Noongar people, who also advise us on how the Wiki should be done, our non-Indigenous brothers and sisters help us. I think it’s what my ancestors would have expected of me, to keep the core of the foundation of our history and our present culture alive and well for everyone to read, hear and share. We’ve already got more than 600 articles from contributors from all around the world, from kids as young as five to Noongar elders who are over 80.

As part of our information gathering we spent 10 weeks at Hilton Primary School talking to the year two, three, five and six students about Noongar culture and history, the birds, the plants and the language. They listened and they then posted on Noongarpedia what they’d learnt. All of the kids played to their strengths and uploaded photos and videos or wrote about what they’d learnt. All up we had 200 articles come from that engagement.

At another school, Ashfield Primary School, our team asked me to translate the song ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ into Noongar. They’d obviously done some serious rehearsing and on the day of their performance, I came along and painted them up. They then performed the song at a school assembly and it was the most incredible experience.

With Indigenous history and culture now a mandatory part of the curriculum, I’m hoping that Noongarpedia will be a great resource for teachers and creates a legacy of truth about our mob in the education system. I look forward to the day when my daughter stops coming home from school saying that Aboriginal people walked from Perth to Ayers Rock, they didn’t, inaccuracies about our people run rampant in the media and academic circles. Noongarpedia is there to set the record straight and all the information is freely available to everybody. I encourage you to check it out.

Kaya wandjoo ngala NoongarPedia - Welcome to our Noongarpedia

Ngala waangkniy kwop birdiyah wirn, maaman, yoka, koorlangka - We speak in good spirit of our ancestors, spirits, men, women and children.

Ngala waarngkiny noona yoowarl koorliny waangkiny nitja NoongarPedia - We hope you come and contribute to our Noongarpedia.

Other articles from Insight, March 2017 (view email newsletter):