Growing up, Uncle Frank Wangutya Wanganeen yearned to embrace his linguistic heritage.

He could speak bits and pieces of Kaurna and other tribal groups in South Australia, but longed to know more.

“It felt like I was always using other people’s language,” he said at a Kaurna language workshop at Wandana Community Centre last week.

“When I’d get on a bus, I’d hear other people conversing in their own language and I’d think, gee, something is missing.”

In the early 1990s, as a community push to revive Kaurna culture began, Uncle Frank made his own pledge, in part inspired by Lyn Arnold, then Premier of South Australia.

“Lyn got up one day and just rattled off the Acknowledgement in Kaurna,” he said, adding “it blew me out, it was so awesome to see.”

“We had such a big break in knowing our language after colonisation, I knew I had to go and learn too because passing it on was going to be very important.”

Two years ago, after devoting three decades to reclaiming his cultural roots, Uncle Frank says he finally felt fulfilled.

“The proudest part was seeing my grandson get up in front of 2000 people and do the Welcome to Country in Kaurna language at the Reconciliation Breakfast,” he said.

“That’s when I felt I’ve been completed in what I really wanted to achieve – to pass that knowledge to the next generation. That’s my passion.

“To see that happen was a great moment for me and my family.”

About 20 people including Centacare’s Family Dispute Resolution team attended the workshop, led by Uncle Frank.

A joint initiative between Centacare and the Morella Community Centre, the workshop explored the significance of the Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country, and equipped participants with the skills to inspire further learning at their respective workplaces.