Gina Williams has a dream to bring people together — a simple but powerful idea she calls #fivewords.
“I have this mad idea that as language is something that we can celebrate that if we all learn #fivewords of the language of the land on which we’re living, then our language will become secure,” the singer-songwriter told the audience at her soldout Perth Festival concert.
“We can’t just learn the suburbs and the swear words! And the second thing is we all have to learn five different words because if we all learn the same words that doesn’t work either. But could you imagine? It would be so wonderful and beautiful.”
Gina certainly inspired Girls Academy students lucky enough to be in the audience. The girls from Kiara, Coodanup, Challis, Clontarf and Balga Girls Academies were in awe of Gina’s voice, as she performed songs in Noongar and English from Koorlangka (children), her new album with collaborator and musician Guy Ghouse.
“It felt good that I could listen and learn my language through songs,” said Shyann, a Year 10 student from Balga Girls Academy. Fellow Year 10 student Jazari said she really enjoyed the concert. “It made me want to know how to do it myself more now and it was really amazing to hear it,” she said, saying she was inspired “to learn five new Noongar words and teach our language to other Noongars to keep the language alive”.
The girls were invited to the concert, held at Government House on the anniversary of the apology to the Stolen Generation, by corporate partner Herbert Smith Freehills. It was an experience they said they would never forget. After being taken on a quick tour of the building they met Gina and had a photograph taken with her and other dignitaries before the concert.
Dressed in a sparkling full-length gown, Gina said she felt like “a princess at the ball” before sharing some funny and poignant stories in between songs.
Describing her own late discovery of her language, Gina said she was embarrassed when she rocked up to her TAFE class to find she was the only Noongar person, other than her teacher, in the class.
While more than 30,000 people identify as Noongar, fewer than 400 people speak it fluently. Gina is passionate about not just keeping language alive but bringing people together — to make cultural connections that will help build a brighter future for everyone.
The mother of three said Koorlangka was largely driven as a legacy for her children. “For 3000 generations our language, our stories, our culture and our laws were passed down and then there was an interruption to this,” she said. “But what we’re hoping that we can rebuild our campfire and we can invite everybody in to chat with us. Family is so much more than DNA.”
Girls Academy students were thrilled to join the “campfire” at Government House. Hayley and Nakia, from Kiara Girls Academy, said they loved the cultural connection and hearing songs in Noongar, while Tiffany described Gina’s voice as “beautiful and soothing”.
With the next generation inspired to take up Gina’s dream of #fivewords, perhaps they will be singing their own Noongar songs in the future.