With 10 children and 14 grandchildren, the significance of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day is not lost on Damien Tunmuck.
An Indigenous Language Officer with the Department of Human Services, Damien, also known as Mayirri, is a Mati-ke man from Yederr who speaks over six different languages and is well-known and respected for his cultural knowledge and language skills. He is a prominent figure in the Wadeye community.
Department of Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen said Mayirri is one of many Indigenous specialist staff around Australia who play an instrumental role in breaking down language and cultural barriers so Indigenous children and their families can access crucial government services.
“National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day (4 August) celebrates and recognises the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. This year’s theme is My Country, Our Country, We All Belong,” Mr Jongen said.
“The department has an extensive range of services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families to help kids stay healthy and strong, make education accessible, stay connected and help them reach their full potential.
“These include family payments, ABSTUDY, assistance for isolated children, remote community outreach, childcare benefits, social workers and specialised Medicare services.
“We have strong partnerships with the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service and the Kimberley Interpreting Service to ensure multilingual Indigenous customers have access to an interpreter.”
Mayirri plays an invaluable role in his local community passing on language and culture and making local kids feel connected and proud of their culture, as well as helping them access government and community services to help them succeed.
He is passionate about sharing and passing his languages and culture to future generations. He has translated children’s books and works with linguists to help preserve languages which are no longer widely spoken.
“Educating and passing on our languages and culture to our children is really important to me,” Mayirri said.
“I grew up here so people know and trust me, which makes it easier to find out exactly what people need to make sure our families access the relevant government and community services to make sure our kids grow up strong, healthy and proud.
“I’m proud I can use my language and cross-cultural skills to help explain government ways, and make it easier for families to share our stories.
“Whether I’m on the phone interpreting, translating written documents, helping people use the self-service terminals or sharing cultural knowledge with our kids – I feel like I’m making a real difference.”
To find out more about available resources and support services for Indigenous families visit humanservices.gov.au/indigenous or call the Indigenous Phone Service on 1800 136 380.