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Director's weekly highlight 7 Oct

Nicholas Evans, Outreach

Date: 7 October 2022

We had to skip a couple of weeks of this mailout while all hands were on deck organising, and attending, our End of Centre Event at the Shine Dome in Canberra last week. 

It was a truly magnificent firework display of so much that CoEDL members have been doing over the last eight years, and further enriched by Clint Bracknell’s inspiring public lecture Waabarangara! Invigorating a community of speakers via performance. A number of participants told me it was the first time they had realised the full scope of what CoEDL has been doing in the Language Science space, or of how all the pieces fit together. Another comment was how far we have come, as a community, in being able to communicate with each other across the very different approaches represented by our researchers. All of that, of course, made for strong mixed emotions — a certain pride and excitement at what we have done, a curious itching-to-go before the new round of questions and challenges that have become apparent, and a regret that CoEDL is soon coming to an end. But as I said in my final address, I think the right metaphor for seeing this moment in time is as a river where channels part and crisscross around delta islands for a while, only to flow together again later, enriched by new tributaries.  

We are not sure yet what those future flowings will be, but the connections of mutual interest, shared curiosity and scholarly friendships that have grown over these eight years are an enormous resource. Going into the event, I had been prepared for a dominant sense of sadness at the end of this exciting and fertile collaboration, but listening to the talks, the questions, and the coffee conversations, what really came across was the excitement building around a host of new projects — you can read, below, about what is going to be happening at WSU.  

You can also catch the tail-end of the conference ‘Where Do We Need To Go From Here? Language Documentation and Archiving during the Decade of Indigenous Languages’, jointly organised by ELAR (Mandana Seyfeddinipur) and PARADISEC (Amanda Harris, Julia Miller and Nick Thieberger), with training sessions offered by, among others, our own Julia Miller and Darja Hoenigman, and featuring Linda Barwick (PARADISEC) as one of the plenary speakers. See 

Many of you reading this mailout were of course there yourselves, and others weren’t. For those who weren’t but are keen to see the talks, recordings will be made available in the coming weeks. We’ll let you know as soon as they’re up. Meanwhile, I’d like to extend my thanks to all who helped make the event such a success. 

Jumping to another key landmark bringing 55 years of research to fruition: dictionaries are never completed but Andrew Pawley has drawn a line under the sixth draft of Words of Waya: a dictionary of the Wayan dialect of the Western Fijian language, which he and the late Timoci Sayaba began in 1967. Wayan is spoken by about 1500 people on Waya and Viwa Is. in the Yasawa group at the western extremity of Fiji. At 1320 pages the Wayan dictionary is possibly the largest of an Oceanic language. The Wayan-English part contains more than 30,000 sense units and extensive Illustrative examples and cultural information. There is also an English-Wayan finder list and a grammar sketch. A pdf can be downloaded here.  

One final announcement. Romina Paskotic, who has played such a central role in running CoEDL as Chief Operating Officer, has accepted a new position, and her last day with us will be on Friday 28 Oct. She will be taking on the position of School Manager at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU. Romina’s contributions to CoEDL have been absolutely central and without her unique combination of efficiency, perceptiveness, human warmth and optimism we would have achieved much less as a Centre. So on behalf of the entire CoEDL community, I’d like to extend a big, big thanks Romina and we wish you well in your new position. Jo Allen will be stepping up as acting Chief Operating Officer for the last two months of our operations and I’d also like to welcome Jo into this new role – one she has occupied before – and thank her for taking on this added responsibility at a moment where there are a lot of things to oversee as we wind up our operations.  

As we move into the last couple of months of CoEDL’s operations, we’ll be maintaining the weekly mailouts as collections of information, publications, news and upcoming projects — please send in all your news in the usual way — but the format will be lighter, without the full Director’s Intro, except for a final burst just before Christmas. 

Have a great week everyone. 

Nick Evans


Spotlight: Bill Forshaw 

Introduced by CoEDL CI Rachel Nordlinger

I am very pleased to introduce Bill Forshaw who was a PhD student in the early years of CoEDL and has more recently rejoined us as part of the RUIL/CoEDL team at the University of Melbourne. Bill’s PhD thesis focussed on the acquisition of verbs in Murrinhpatha – a fascinating study and one of very few on the acquisition of the complex morphological structures found in polysynthetic languages. Bill then relocated to Wadeye to work as linguist at the local school, working with the Murrinhpatha teachers in the bilingual school program, and providing important support for Murrinhpatha-speaking children to access education in their first language. We are extremely fortunate to now have Bill’s unique set of skills and experience being applied to the development of Indigenous training and community language support initiatives at the Research Unit for Indigenous Language, and look forward to many exciting and innovative projects to come! 


I completed my PhD in 2016 as part of the Language Acquisition Murrinhpatha project at the University of Melbourne supervised by Rachel Nordlinger, Barb Kelly and Jill Wigglesworth. I was able to adapt my thesis into a monograph which was recently published. Just as CoEDL was gathering steam I headed north to Wadeye, NT and took up a role as School Linguist at OLSH Thamarrurr Catholic College supporting Murrinhpatha language maintenance education. I greatly valued the opportunity to work alongside a great team of Murrinhpatha speaking educators and their allies providing diverse educational opportunities from reading and writing local stories, to soaking cycad nuts, to documenting WWII plane wrecks. 

In 2021 my family was drawn back to community in Melbourne. I was fortunate to re-join the team at Melbourne Uni in a position with the Research Unit for Indigenous Language partially supported by CoEDL. This role is focused on language work by Indigenous groups and individuals and represents growing initiative by RUIL to strengthen support for community language work. Through this role I’ve been able to work with a growing number of projects including second language teaching and learning, first language literacy and various language revival activities. 

Together with my partner Megan Wood (ANU PhD candidate), I’m also continuing to support former colleagues in Wadeye through remote consultancy and the delivery of on-site professional development. This work is built on Megan’s ongoing PhD research documenting Murrinhpatha teaching & learning in Wadeye. This commitment to ongoing collaboration and professional development is built into Megan’s PhD methodology and is fine example of research with clear social benefit. I hope to continue to practise linguistics focused on outcomes that enrich people’s lives and am currently exploring post-doctoral research opportunities. 

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University