LIVING HISTORY: Hundreds turned out for the opening of  Dungarimba Wandarahn  in Lismore's Quad to hear Aunty Irene - pictured with grandsons AJ and SJ Harrington - tell the story of how she kept her Bundjalung language alive.
LIVING HISTORY: Hundreds turned out for the opening of Dungarimba Wandarahn in Lismore's Quad to hear Aunty Irene - pictured with grandsons AJ and SJ Harrington - tell the story of how she kept her Bundjalung language alive. Sophie Moeller

PHOTOS: 500 people turn up to 'look, listen, learn'

NEARLY 500 people turned out for the opening of Dungarimba Wandarahn in Lismore's Quad last night to hear how Aunty Irene Harrington kept the language of the Widjabul people alive during the 1950s.

Aunty Irene's voice reverberated around the grounds of the old Lismore High School, where she was one of the first Aboriginal students to attend but was forbidden to speak in her first language.

Her face could be seen on the walls of the Lismore Library, talking to crowd made up of every age, as part of a spectacular multi-sensory experience of Bundjalung language and culture created by digital artist Craig Walsh.

The work centres around Aunty Irene Harrington's recollections of being a young Widjabul girl who lived at Cubawee mission in South Lismore and attended the high school (now the Lismore Library and Northern Rivers Conservatorium in The Quad).

Southern Cross University's Indigenous School Gnibi Wandarahn and Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar high school were involved in researching the project but the emotional high-point of the evening came when Aunty Irene addressed the audience.

"Welcome to my part of the country, welcome to my place of learning,” she said.

"It was hard as a young Aboriginal woman (back then) because we weren't allowed to speak our language, what we treasured most. We were not allowed simply because ... someone didn't understand what we were saying ... I feel humbled to see so many people here tonight.

"It doesn't matter what you do, who your are or where you come from, when you to take a moment we are all descendants of the human race.”

Aunty Irene said she hoped the work would encourage people to "ganli (look), gnanjaleh (listen) and wijalahbeh (learn)”. 

Earlier, Vice Chancellor of Southern Cross University, Adam Shoemaker, spoke of his pride in the university's involvement in the large-scale projection and what the Quad has come to represent to the people of the region.

For people to come together in "this space to hear this story is what learning is all about”, he said.

"Aunty Irene's voice is going to echo in this place of learning for many years.”

Marisa Snow, creative producer and The Quad's placemaking officer, thanked Aunty Irene for sharing her story so Dungarimba Wandarahn could be gifted to the community.

"This free event is a powerful and beautiful experience of Bundjalung language and culture that can be enjoyed by all generations and reflects The Quad's history as a place of learning,” she said.



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