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Preserving Kupran Language and Culture in the Goldfields

The story of Indigenous Kupran elder Brian Champion, the last remaining Kaalamaya speaker, who dedicated his life to researching and preserving the culture of his people.


Kalgoorlie local and proud Kupran man Brian Champion has been an important figure in preserving the language and culture of the Kupran people in the Goldfields.

Mr Champion was removed from his family at a young age and placed in Norseman Mission, where he spent most of his childhood.

After returning to his family in his late teens and beginning work on the C.Y O’Connor pipeline, he realised that he had lost the culture and language of his community.

“When I came back and saw people and I could not correspond with them because of being away, it was very sad,” Mr Champion told the ABC’s Kyle Brown.

It wasn’t until he had his own children that he decided to look back at the history of his people – the Kaprun people – and the Kaalamaya language.

“One day my daughter asked me – ‘Dad, have we got a language, have we got a tribe, where do we come from?’

“That made me more aware of my predicament, her predicament, my people’s predicament.

“We lost most of our culture, and if we don’t do something about it, it’ll be lost forever.”

It was at that point that Mr Champion began to research Kaprun people and their language, travelling throughout Australia and visiting museums and libraries to gather information.

Barriers were encountered along the way, as lack of funding became apparent and Mr Champion realised that he was researching a language that was never written down.

“It was very hard, it was a pretty big burden,” he explains. “But it made me more determined, and I started to find things out.”

One of Mr Champion’s key findings was a report by Norman B. Tindale from the 1930s that outlined the name of the tribe and Kaalamaya language.

“I was also lucky in a sense, because my old cousins were still alive and they could still speak very fluently the language and the stories,” Mr Champion says.

“I took little tape recorders out to the bush with them, and we sat down and I’d ask them words – tree, bird, hill.”

It took Mr Champion more than 10 years to research, learn and preserve the Kaalamaya language, and he has played an integral part in the Goldfields Aboriginal Languages project.

Mr Champion is the last speaker of the Kaalamaya language in Australia and the world.

His goal is to pass the language on to his family, and to expand the net so that other groups will follow suit and preserve their local culture for centuries to come.

This article originally appears at:
Article taken from the following publication:
ABC Goldfields
Article submitted by:
Chloe Papas and Kirstyn March

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