Dja Dja Wurrung has barely been heard in public forums for more than 100 years.
Now a small group of people is trying to revive the language, reconstructing and learning the tongue of their ancestors.
The efforts rely on fragments of language passed down through generations, and historical documentation that records some words, filtered through a European lens.
Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Corporation chief executive Rodney Carter hopes one day to hear the language reinstated, as a form of chosen language to be spoken in central Victoria.
Speaker of Dja Dja Wurrung and linguist Harley Dunolly-Lee is reconstructing the language so that people will be able to learn and understand it.
Growing up his mother taught him a bit of the language, what she could remember from her Nan and Pop speaking as a child - a few rude words and a ghost story.
In high school Mr Dunolly-Lee began to meet relatives, and learn a few more words.
But he got to a point where he realised knowledge of the Dja Dja Wurrung language was very limited in the community.
So he approached Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages for help learning more.
When he was 21 he realised he needed to study at university to create language resources like a dictionary, so others could learn the tongue more easily.
Mr Dunolly-Lee was inspired to learn the Dja Dja Wurrung language by his great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Dunolly, a Dja Dja Wurrung man who was an activist and speaker.
"When I was learning it and speaking it it felt right in me to know it and to learn it," Mr Dunolly-Lee said.
"I knew it was right and I knew that if I learnt more I knew that my grandfather would be also proud of me as well.
"To revive the language is sort of fulfilling that legacy of what he and other ancestors have done."
He now works for VACL, helping Aboriginal people in Victoria learn their languages.
His work covers the 44 languages that were spoken in Victoria before European people came.
These were among the 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages - and 800 dialect variations - once spoken on the continent.
About 120 of these languages are still spoken, but only 13 of these are being passed down to children.
The last people to grow up speaking Dja Dja Wurrung fluently were the great-great-great-grandparents of Mr Dunolly-Lee's generation, he said.
Those born after 1886 hardly knew the language because of the "half-caste act", which allowed the state to take anyone of mixed ancestry from their family.
Language is like the jar that holds your culture, all the accumulated knowledge over thousands of generations here was recorded in that language.Bec Phillips
Reconstructing a language is an enormous amount of work. And Dja Dja Wurrung is just one of the languages with which Mr Dunolly-Lee works.
First he studies manuscripts and source material describing the language. This might be handwritten notebooks, letters, scrapbooks, linguistic descriptions or surveyor's documents.
But these historical documents were written in the English spelling system, which bleached the language of its distinctive sounds.
So Mr Dunolly-Lee has to compare all the different spellings of one word, to identify what sound the writer was describing.
Through this he aims to capture the original pronunciation of the language.
Mr Dunolly-Lee also has the work of nineteenth century linguists such as Robert Hamilton Matthews, who recorded some of the Dja Dja Wurrung language, including parts of the grammar.
He can use this as a base to understand other language recordings.
Common patterns in the related languages can help him identify the sounds of Dja Dja Wurrung.
Mr Dunolly-Lee's aim is to reconstruct a language that's easy enough for the community to speak and understand.
It's a hard task, and Mr Dunolly-Lee is also relying on the help of elders in the Dja Dja Wurrung community.
About nine or 10 people are learning the Dja Dja Wurrung language now, while maybe 20 people can sing it.
Dja Dja Wurrung woman Bec Phillips is among these. She plans to speak the language to the child she is expecting as it grows up.
Ms Phillips began to study Dja Dja Wurrung more than 10 years ago because she felt she could only do so much cultural revival without speaking her language.
She has found the language helps her express and understand her culture, and talk more with her country.
"Language is like the jar that holds your culture, all the accumulated knowledge over thousands of generations here was recorded in that language," Ms Phillips said.
"In order to really understand the concepts you have to understand the foundations of that language, which is that the language that my ancestors spoke is the same language that the birds speak here. It's just a human form of that. It is a language that comes from this land, nowhere else.
"When you can understand those concepts, the foundations of it, then there are things that you will unravel about this country that can't be translated into English. Just words haven't been invented to describe those things here except in Dja Dja Wurrung."
Through speaking Dja Dja Wurrung, Ms Phillips hopes to give her child a better chance of grasping the language, without the work of having to decolonise its understandings, or learn through the written word, that adult learners have to do.
"This way it's making it part of their upbringing straight away. It's common, it's normal for them. It's not something new like it is for our generation," Ms Phillips said.
Dja Dja Wurrung Corporation chief executive Rodney Carter said the organisation would love to see Dja Dja Wurrung re-instated, and used in central Victoria.
Mr Carter said it would be brilliant to give visitors the experience of hearing Dja Dja Wurrung spoken, in same way an Australian overseas might be excited to hear the language of that country spoken.
Mr Carter said the corporation's board decided to resource a language project officer in the last budget, to better resource the slow process of creating a database of words.
But the sound of the spoken language was beautiful, Mr Carter said.
For him speaking Dja Dja Wurrung is a form of homecoming.
"[Language] is one of those fundamental components of identity," Mr Carter said.
"You can talk about any forms, song, dance, those creative things you do, maybe even our forms of traditions, things that we do that are embedded in our identity, language is actually a part of that.
"If it's missing you don't have that completeness."
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