A Northern Territory Government sign warning people not to eat wildlife at a Darwin creek has been mistranslated into Kriol making it nonsensical, fluent speakers of the language say.
The warning sign is supposed to urge people not to collect and eat fish or shellfish, including crabs, from Rapid Creek.
It went up in the wake of tests released earlier this year by the NT Environment Protection Authority that found the creek contained perflourinated chemicals historically used in firefighting foam at Defence bases around the country.
The impact of these chemicals on humans is not well established, although they are considered an animal carcinogen according to a report published by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information in America.
But Kriol expert Dr Gregory Dickson from the University of Queensland said the sign at Rapid Creek was written incorrectly.
“I don’t think it makes sense to Kriol speakers,” he said.
“Some words are spelled using Kriol spelling, and some are in English.”
His views were echoed by Tyrone Holmes from the Aboriginal Interpreter Service who lives in Darwin and is a Kriol speaker.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Mr Holmes said.
Mr Holmes said he had showed pictures of the sign to his family in the Aboriginal community of Bagot in Darwin and none of them could understand what it was trying to say.
Kriol is an Aboriginal language spoken in the Barkly district of the NT and further north that is a creole, or language that arises among children of adults who speak different languages, the Central Land Council said on their website.
It is also referred to as pidgin, camp English or Aboriginal English, the website said.
Sign prepared by Aboriginal people, Health Department says
The sign displayed at the creek reads: “Caution: This one krik lunga being looked at for wadrim trabul in them months May and June. Make sure you don’t eatem any bij, kreb or masul” before including details of who to call for more information.
It also shows images of the animals with red crosses through them.
But in a Facebook post, Dr Dickson said an accurate translation into Kriol would have been: “La Mei en Jun, mela testimbat dijan woda bla meiksho im klinwan en seifwan. Nomo idim eni fish, kreb o masul dumaji im maitbi nogud.”
Other Kriol speakers on Facebook backed up Dr Dickson’s concerns about the sign.
A spokesman for the NT Department of Health, which erected the sign, said it was written by Aboriginal people.
“Aboriginal Broadcasting Australia prepared the signs for the Department of Health,” the spokesman said.
Aboriginal Broadcasting Australia was contacted by the ABC but did not wish to make a public comment on the issue.
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- Xavier La Canna