by Christine Platt, CEO Australia
With an increasing number of recordists our Australian studio seeks to complete two recording projects for indigenous communities in Australia each year. Please pray for us as we work towards developing new recordists to work both here in Australia and overseas, and for good opportunities to serve indigenous communities.
Noel Bachelor and Simon Johnston travelled to Darwin in August to participate in "Multiplying the Multitudes", a conference for those interested or involved in Christian language ministry in indigenous communities.
They also recorded a couple of books of the Plain English Version of the Bible using indigenous voices. This is a simple English translation that has been developed with indigenous Australians in mind.
A Long Tradition
Our recording work in Australian indigenous languages began in 1953, when GRN Australia first started. Over a couple of years, Don Richter travelled around the bush partnering with many different mission agencies, to record Gospel messages in many of the languages spoken at the time. From there, Don went on to record for some years in PNG and what was then 'Dutch New Guinea'.
Some of Don's recordings certainly gained more impact at the time, and are now seen as historically important because they were recorded with some notable indigenous people. Because they were among the earliest audio recordings in many of the languages, the GRN recordings of that time are often of interest both to researchers and speakers of the languages. At that time, many people still lived in the bush, and the languages were 'richer' and less affected by English and neighbouring languages in the communities where the people settled. Because GRN used the best available portable recording equipment of the day, they were often higher quality than recordings typically made by academics.
John Dekker continued the work in conjunction with Bible translators and missionaries, recording in several languages from Cape York in 1970, before he moved to South Africa where he worked for many more years.
Noel and Mary Bachelor began recording in the early 1980s, and recorded in many languages across Northern and Central Australia. Recordings came out of partnerships with many different mission agencies such as AIM, UAM, SIL, Bible Society, and Baptist, Uniting, Anglican and Lutheran missionaries; and of course the indigenous Christians and church leaders.
Often, few of the people can actually read their own language, so Bible translators are usually keen to record some of the scriptures they have worked on, as well as assisting in preparation and recording of other teaching and evangelistic materials.
One of the initiatives that came out of the partnerships between various mission agencies was the 'Songwriter's Workshops'. These were held periodically in Darwin for some years, with a few more regional workshops held later. Groups of songwriters, musicians, and singers came from different communities for classes on writing and translating songs, and we recorded the materials they created. This produced good recordings of many songs in a range of languages which could be made into programs. Many of the songs developed and recorded at the workshops have become the standard 'classics' in their language. The recordings helped some of the songs to propagate widely across the country, with people translating them into other languages.
Some programs used outlines from Scripture Gift Mission (now LifeWords) publications of scripture portions applied to a particular topic or issue. Putting these together with appropriate songs proved to be very popular for personal ministry in many communities. It was encouraging to see the initiative for some recordings of this type coming from the indigenous church leaders, who would approach us directly with a proposal to record materials they had developed.
Though GRN does not now have a continuing presence in North Australia, the partnerships continue and we have recorded several more Australian indigenous language projects in recent years.
It's great to see how GRN materials are being used: At camp 'fellowship' meetings in the desert, it is common for people to get up to share something, using GRN's audio-visual flip-charts to illustrate their message. The same picture books have been used by indigenous Christians to sit down and share the Gospel with older people in their camp.
Some of our indigenous partners have made it their personal ministry to copy and distribute the recordings in their communities. We have walked into a community store, to hear our recordings playing on the sound systems they have for sale, and they were also selling copies of the recordings.
And Christians are using GRN's 5fish apps to store and use the recordings in their language, and to share them with others.
The Bible Society is facilitating the recording of translated scriptures in indigenous languages, and these come to GRN to add to our archive, and to make them available via our websites and mobile apps.