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Language Liberation in Australia

Chinese translation by Peng Wei Wah

What a joy to have attended the Care of the Environment Workshop led by Wytske Visser (the International Commonality Reference Person for the Care of the Environment) in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Wytske highlighted how care of the environment, language liberation, and ending racism are connected. All of her classes were interpreted. Marijke Wilmans translated from Wytske’s native language, Frisian, into English. Neither of these languages is Marijke’s native language, yet she was able to give us Wytske’s mind in the dominant Australian language. It was beautiful to watch these two women use their whole bodies to connect with us. They showed gentleness, power, caring, fun, and intelligence. There was also interpreting from English into Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese dialect, Dutch, French, and German.

Every twenty minutes, many people in the room paid one minute of attention to all the non-native English speakers. This highlighted the diversity we have in our country.

Language oppression in Australia has roots in British colonialism and a “White Australia Policy.” It’s a key part of the pressure to assimilate to the dominant patriarchal, white, English-speaking, Protestant culture and includes striving to be middle class.

The land that is now Australia was stolen from the Indigenous people in 1788 and colonised initially by British convicts, to solve the problem of overflowing British prisons. Many other people followed, to pursue opportunities and to flee war and oppression. Hundreds of Indigenous languages were lost as part of the ongoing genocide.

When I was growing up here in Australia, nearly all the books in school were English or European. The pictures were of European landscapes, which looked very different from the dry, desert environment where I was, in the remote “outback” of New South Wales. (“Outback” refers to remote inland parts of Australia, where the population is sparse. New South Wales is a State of Australia.) I remember lots of wonderful comedy shows that highlighted the feelings many Australians had of being inferior to the people in other white English-speaking ”Commonwealth” countries.

It seems that our early distresses are intertwined with language. When we speak, it can reveal those distresses and restimulate others in a way that interferes with relaxed connection. Patty Wipfler (a former International Liberation Reference Person for Parents) teaches about the effectiveness of counselling children with our whole bodies. I think language liberation gives us a way to connect with our whole being rather than relying so much on language.

This work is so exciting and fun. I wonder, what will happen next?

Cynthia Lawson

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion listfor leaders in the care of the environment

(Present Time 186, January 2017)

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00