Proposed welcome signs for visitors to the region carrying the Dhurga language have raised the concern of traditional owners.
Residents took to the Bega Valley Shire Council Facebook page last week after a picture of a sign due to be erected near Eden was posted online.
Many said the language being used was incorrect for the Bega Valley and offensive to the Djiringanj people. One post said it would be like driving into Paris welcomed by signs written in Spanish.
Council responded in a statement on Facebook to say its intention with the signs “was not to disrespect, but to acknowledge the traditional custodians of our lands.”
“Council continues to be committed to consulting as widely as possible.”
Djiringanj and Ngarigo elder Aunty Ellen Mundy said incorrect interpretations of traditional culture created without traditional owner consultation appear throughout the Bega Valley, and the signage issue is just one of many created since colonisation.
“They are sitting in Bega, which is the heart of Djiringanj country, which starts at Narooma and goes as far as Merimbula and West to the bottom of Nimmitabel,” she said.
“We grew up with the remnants of our language, and a lot of language still being spoken and a lot of it did survive.
“Things like Yuin and Dhurga weren’t familiar to us, only maybe through intermarriage.
“It began when the missionaries came in, people weren’t allowed to speak language, so it was done in isolation because they feared being threatened or killed.”
Djiringanj and Ngarigo elder Aunty Colleen Dixon said all levels of government have been responsible for the misappropriation of culture and the destruction of Australian languages.
“The most important thing is when it comes to the younger generation coming through, that when the time comes when we are not here, that they can see the truth on Country,” she said.
“The government doesn’t care, as long as they get things done, it’s all about money and tourism. I think it’s time we stood up, and start planting the seeds.”
Council said it is continuing the consultation process, with the aim of rectifying any inaccuracy.