Voices of Regional Australia project receives ARC Discovery Project funding

Professor Catherine Travis

Professor Catherine Travis

The Voices of Regional Australia: The linguistic patterning of local attachment has been successful in receiving an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery project funding to the tune of $354,815.

The project will be led by a team of linguists, including Professor Catherine Travis, Chair of Modern European Languages, Ksenia Gnevsheva, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, and Professor Gerry Docherty from Griffith University.

The project will explore language and dynamics of Australians in regional areas who have been often neglected in the research to date. The findings of the project will help develop a better understanding of models of language change across urban and rural areas.

“We are keen to have a look at regional areas which are typically reported to be lagging behind major cities in language change,” Professor Travis said. “We know a lot about Australian English as spoken in our major urban centres, but we know much less about the regions. We want to test how change spreads to regional areas – are they lagging behind, so speaking an older, or more conservative, kind of English? Or are they doing things slightly differently? Does this apply across the community, or are different people doing different things?”

“We also hope to gain an understanding of community attachment and the impact it has on speech patterns, particularly today when regional populations are a mix, from people whose families have been in the area for generations to newer arrivals who have come looking for a sea- or tree-change,” Dr Gnevsheva said.

Another feature of the project is collecting bushfire stories. The project will be implemented in regional Braidwood (near Canberra) and Trentham (between Bendigo and Ballarat in Victoria), regions that have been affected by bushfires both historically and in the recent past.

“The linguistic data we will analyse will come from stories told by locals, including about their experiences during bushfires, which will make a unique dataset,” Professor Travis said.

The team includes community consultants from each region, who are locals involved in their local firefighting organisations. “Working with the community consultants, we will think about how we can use the information in the recorded stories to feed into recovery and resilience efforts. We hope that the “Voices of Regional Australia” corpus we create can provide significant benefit as a record of life, language, and community in regional Australia.”

The project will make use of existing recordings with locals in the Braidwood region, collected by local documentary filmmaker, Clare Young, for an oral history project that documented the experiences of the community during the Black Summer Bushfires. From these, Clare created a six-part podcast series (‘Heart of the Storm’, produced by Braidwood FM), and the original interviews are being incorporated into this project.

Professor Travis and Dr Gnevsheva are excited to start working on the project on 1 June. “We are planning our initial field visits and looking forward to getting a better understanding of the regions and hearing the stories people have to tell.”