For the first time since the inception of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1975, the World Heritage Committee has endorsed the use of an indigenous language to describe a site’s outstanding universal value.
A retrospective statement for the dual-listed Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park – featuring quotes in Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara language by two Aṉangu elders – was officially adopted at the recent 44th meeting of the World Heritage Committee in late July.
This is the first time a UNESCO Statement of Outstanding Universal Value has included a language other than English or French, even though there are over 1100 listed properties.
Park Manager Dianne Scopel said the inclusion of Aboriginal language sets a precedent and enshrines the words of two significant Aṉangu leaders.
“The statement describes evidence of one of the oldest continuous cultures in the world as well as the natural and geological significance of this spectacular landscape,” Dianne Scopel said.
“But most importantly, it captures the importance of the area to the Aṉangu people in their own words, a people who have lived here for tens of thousands of years.”
The inclusion of these words, in both languages, was strongly supported by the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park Board of Management.
“It is really important to show everyone our language is important, we need both languages. Our language has to stay,” said Chair of the Board, Sidney James.
A Statement of Outstanding Universal Value is the official statement adopted by the World Heritage Committee to summarise why a listed property is of international importance.
Statements for Australia’s properties are written by the Australian Government in consultation with traditional owners and World Heritage advisory bodies. Due to the extensive consultation required, it is common for a statement to take many years to finalise beyond the initial listing of the site.
“We are delighted that the quotes from traditional owners have been maintained as they provide important emphasis to the outstanding cultural values of Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park,” Dianne Scopel said.
“This retrospective statement will now be used as a key reference for the protection and management of the property into the future.”
The UN Decade of Indigenous Languages will be observed from 2022, prioritising a need to empower indigenous language users and protect, revitalise, and promote indigenous languages.
Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park is one of only a few dozen places in the world to have received a dual World Heritage listing for both its cultural and natural values. The land is owned by the Aṉangu people and leased to Parks Australia, who manage the national park in collaboration with the traditional owners.
Excerpt from the Statement of Universal Value for Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park
Ananguku Tjukurpa kunpu pulka alatjitu ngaranyi. Inma pulka ngaranyi munu Tjukurpa pulka ngaranyi ka palula tjana-languru kulini munu uti nganana kunpu mulapa kanyinma. Miil-miilpa ngaranyi munu Ananguku Tjukurpa nyanga pulka mulapa. Tjukurpa panya tjamulu, kamilu, mamalu, ngunytjulu nganananya ungu, kurunpangka munu katangka kanyintjaku.
There is strong and powerful Aboriginal Law in this Place. There are important songs and stories that we hear from our elders, and we must protect and support this important Law. There are sacred things here, and this sacred Law is very important. It was given to us by our grandfathers and grandmothers, our fathers and mothers, to hold onto in our heads and in our hearts. ©
Nintiringkula kamila tjamula tjanalanguru. Wirurala nintiringu munula watarkurinytja wiya. Nintiringkula tjilpi munu pampa nguraritja tjutanguru, munula rawangku tjukurpa kututungka munu katangka kanyilku. Ngura nyangakula ninti – nganana ninti.
We learnt from our grandmothers and grandfathers and their generation. We learnt well and we have not forgotten. We’ve learnt from the old people of this place, and we’ll always keep the Tjukurpa in our hearts and minds. We know this place – we are ninti, knowledgeable. ©