RUIL awards the inaugural Leary Trust for Australian Indigenous Languages Award

The Research Unit for Indigenous Language is excited to congratulate Dharug woman Tula Wynyard as the inaugural winner of the Leary Trust for Australian Indigenous Languages Award. This award was established in 2020 to support and encourage the study of Australian Indigenous languages by Australian Indigenous honours students at the University of Melbourne. The award will support Tula as she undertakes her honours year in Linguistics in 2021.

Tula says “Our Aboriginality was a secret kept by the older generations of my family for many years, so I feel a strong sense of responsibility to learn as much as I can about my culture, stories and country. I believe that the study of Australian languages challenges widespread misconceptions about Indigenous culture and history — it also highlights the beauty, complexity and diversity of the languages themselves.

I first came to linguistics through my love of learning languages: I started learning French when I was young and continued this into a major in my Bachelor of Arts, also picking up Spanish as a minor subject. I then trained as an English language teacher, worked in Japan and began learning Japanese.

Returning to the University of Melbourne to do a Graduate Diploma in Arts, I knew linguistics was the path I wanted to follow, but I hadn’t predicted how much I would be inspired by the work of my lecturers and tutors in the Research Unit for Indigenous Language. I’m now studying Honours with a view to PhD research in the future.

Working with Brett Baker, my Honours thesis focuses on morpheme boundary phonotactics in northern Australian languages such as Kayardild, Wubuy and NdjÊebbana. The intersections of morphemes in polysynthetic languages such as these exhibit interesting phonological patterns that are often different from the patterns elsewhere in a word.

It’s an honour to receive the inaugural Leary Trust for Australian Indigenous Languages Award to support my studies. It helps relieve the additional pressures of work and enables me to make the most of my Honours year coursework and research.”

Congratulations Tula! We look forward to working with you and seeing your research develop. We’d like to acknowledge the late Duncan Leary for his generous donation to the study of Indigenous languages which has allowed us to fund this annual award.