Getting in Touch: Bird app development

Getting in Touch bird apps
Getting in Touch bird apps

The Getting in Touch bird apps enable people to listen to recordings of language names for birds alongside photographs of birds and the sounds of their calls. The apps present short stories about birds as well, telling about their cultural significance, behaviour and habitats in Indigenous languages and in English. Knowledge of plants and animals and their place in country and culture is highly valued by Indigenous peoples. Digital technologies have a role to play in maintaining and respecting this knowledge, and passing it on to the next generations.

The idea of sharing resources and expertise and making apps for a number of languages began at the Getting in Touch workshop in Alice Springs in Central Australia in April 2014. Language teams from Indigenous communities, linguists and technology specialists came together to discuss the development of digital tools that meet community goals of maintaining language and cultural practices. The project arose out of concern that the majority of digital resources available to Indigenous users are in English, even though English is not a first language for many. At the workshop Indigenous ecological knowledge was one of several domains that emerged for app development, alongside kinship and apps to support knowledge of mental health and emotional states.

The first app from this project, a Kaytetye bird app called Thangkerne Kaytetye Birds, was developed by Ben Foley, Margaret Carew (Batchelor Institute), Myfany Turpin (University of Sydney), and Alison Ross (Artarre community), and released in 2015. The first version of Thangkerne was based on open source software developed by Museum Victoria for flora and fauna field guides. The new apps are using the open source Jila framework, developed by ThoughtWorks with Mabu Yawuru Ngan-ga, the Yawuru language centre in Western Australia.

In May 2017 the Arrernte bird app was released as a companion app for a beautiful book Ayeye Thipe-akerte: Arrernte stories about birds. Another combination of book and companion app was released in 2017: Nga-ni kun-red ngarduk man-djewk na-kudji ‘A year in my country’ is a book about seasons on Kune country by Jill Yirrindili and Aung Si, with illustrations by Jennifer Taylor.

Below is a list of all apps publically available so far: search the name in your preferred app store, and download the apps to your own device!

Language name/varieties In app store, search for: Want more info? Visit the website:
Kaytetye Thangkerne Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics
Thangkerne | Kaytetye birds
Eastern/Central Arrernte Ayeye Thipe-akerte Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics
Ayeye thipe-akerte
Mawng Karlurri The Mawng Language website
Kune Kune Maningrida Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics
Nga-ni kun-red ngarduk man-djewk na-kudji |
A year in my country
Dhauwurd Wurrung, Djargurt
Wurrung, Kee Wurrung, Kirrae
Wurrung, Kuurn Kopan Noot, Peek
Wurrung and Wooloowoorroong
Part-parti Mirring-yi See our April 2017 newsletter

The Getting in Touch project was jointly funded by the Melbourne Social Equity Institute (the University of Melbourne), RUIL (Research Unit for Indigenous Language, the University of Melbourne), BI (The Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education) and FLA (First Languages Australia). Continuing work on app development is jointly managed and funded by RUIL and Batchelor Institute.