Visitors arriving at the international terminal at the Canberra Airport will be greeted with the words yuma [pronounced: yooma] and yumalundi [pronounced: yoomaloondi], with a Welcome to Country in both English and the traditional Aboriginal language of the ACT region.
In an Australian airport first, visitors will be welcomed into the country by the voice of Caroline Hughes, a proud Ngunnawal woman.
Ms Hughes said she felt honoured to be the voice that welcomes international visitors to Ngunnawal country.
“As a child growing up, I wasn’t allowed to share our language with anybody besides my family and my mob to protect us,” she shared with Region Media.
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“Language was to be kept a secret to keep us safe because they took children away if you spoke the language. So to come full circle where we can share that with all Australians and visitors from overseas, I am so proud and honoured.
“The very first words in this area were Ngunnawal words so it is fitting that we are sharing this with people around Canberra, around Australia and around the world.”
Ms Hughes said the Canberra Airport’s initiative is an important recognition of Ngunnawal culture, reconciliation and a source of personal pride.
“Our language is the key to all our relationships and how we interact with each other. It is the salient ingredient to spirituality, love, law and retaining our cultural identity and connection,” Ms Hughes said.
“I am so proud to share our language, welcoming visitors from around Australia and the world, who come to our traditional Country and to continue their journey safely.
“It is particularly eventful in NAIDOC week because the three key themes of the week are voice, treaty and truth. This is an opportunity for truth for us and to have our voices heard.
“At the Canberra Airport where people come and go, people can know that when they come into the country they are spiritually blessed by the welcome.”
Canberra Airport CEO Stephen Byron hopes that the Welcome to Country will connect visitors with the long, continuing Aboriginal history of the ACT region and enrich their stay.
“As more visitors travel to the ACT region, we want them to appreciate the full history of the land on which they have arrived,” he said. “This is an important and memorable first step for visitors arriving in Canberra and sets the foundation for a more enriching visit.
“We are proud to be the first airport in Australia to offer international travellers the chance to hear from the First People as they step onto their lands in Canberra.
“This Welcome to Country will help visitors experience and hear about Ngunnawal cultural traditions—in their own voices.
“We believe that by sharing a tradition of the Ngunnawal culture with others, we help to create a more united Australia and bring optimism for a better future as a nation.”