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Badimaya man Ollie George named 2017 National NAIDOC Male Elder of the Year
When the number of native speakers of the Badimaya language dropped to a mere handful, it needed someone to breathe life back into and make Badimaya a living language again. Luckily, elder Alex “Ollie” George was there to help.
Ollie, from Mount Magnet in the mid-west region of Western Australia, 570 kilometres northeast of Perth, is one of the last living fluent speakers of Badimaya. As a result, Ollie has worked tirelessly since the early 1990s to preserve his mother tongue, teaching Badimaya at the Mount Magnet school and working with community members to create language materials and resources.
“It’s so important that everyone is able to speak their own language,” Ollie said.
“My language was here before me and it will still be here after I’m gone.”
Ollie has recorded hundreds of hours of Badimaya language, and since 2012 has produced seven publications in Badimaya, including the long-awaited Badimaya Dictionary and Badimaya Guwaga Topical Dictionary in 2014.
Ollie has been the subject of two documentaries by the Film and TV Institute of Western Australia, the primary consultant on two major exhibitions of Badimaya language and country; and the primary consultant on projects mapping significant natural and cultural heritage on Badimaya country.
Ollie is now completing his magnum opus, a project named ‘Nganang Badimaya Wangga’ which is based on 24 yarns he tells about life growing up on his country, learning language from old people, and the cultural and historical legacy of the Badimaya people.
“In one hundred years’ time, long after I’m dead and gone, my grannies will still speak their language and know about and their culture and history,” Ollie said.