Language no boundary for Steven Atkinson

BARNGARLA Language Advisory Committee interim chairperson Steven Atkinson is passionate about helping others find their cultural roots through language.

Before settling down, Steven was travelling a between Victoria and Port Augusta regularly and was in town for a workshop trying to get a grasp on the Barngarla language himself.

"Port Augusta is a great place for language," Steven said.

Steven said Port Augusta is important when it comes to language revival, language survival and language reclamation due to it's location.

Up to 30 Aboriginal languages are used at the nearby Davenport Community.

"Having so many languages here, it's sort of like a language hub for the country," he said.

"It's no doubt a tribal hub with so many different people from so many different tribal areas in Port Augusta because it's the crossroads of the country."

Due to this many people end up staying here.

Steven has worked with University of Adelaide Professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann to reclaim the Barngarla language.

In the past three years they've had workshops across the Barngarla country in Port Augusta, Whyalla and Port Lincoln.

"It's even more poignant now after winning our native title case at the start of the year," Steven said.

"I think it's more important now that we hear that language spoken back over that land now that we've been given recognition of where our country is."

Steven was working in Queensland five years ago for an airline and decided to go back to his father's area around Echuca.

He did a lot of research into the tribal area, the people and his own family genealogy.

"I've lived a fairly full life before now and for some reason in my 40s, I've chosen to reconnect culturally," Steven said.

"I just wanted to understand my cultural identity."

Once Steven's family saw how much information he uncovered, his 81-year-old uncle passed on his own research about the family.

His uncle had been the one to do all the research on his family before Steven and when he passed over the research, he gave him authority over the history of the family.

The experience sparked something in Steven.

It became a passion for Steven finding that genealogical and cultural tribal link in his father's country.

"I thought, I'll go to Port Augusta and do the same thing there," Steven said.

This is all part of why he feels the language reclamation is so important.

It's part of connecting with cultural links and roots.

Steven's passion has shone through in reclamations.

Professor Zuckermann has asked Steven to be a big part of reclaiming the languages.

"Having formed the Barngarla Language Advisory Committee, the acronym being 'blac'," Steven said.

"Which is comedic, but I think it's appropriate."

As a group of Aboriginal people they are trying to reclaim their language so being part of the committee and the role they play.

The committee makes decisions on how they will proceed, whether they will take on new words, creating words for things like computer and internet.

"We're evolving the language to create new words that are used in everyday society," Steven said.

In the event Steven ever decides to make linguistics his career, Professor Zuckermann has a scholarship waiting for him.

However, after many years living in Melbourne and Brisbane, Steven is happier living the country life.