Mid-North Coast: The gospel of St Mark translated into the language of the Lake Macquarie Aborigines, 1837
Full catalogue record available online at: http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/Details/archive/110319513.
Most early language collecting was limited to lists of Aboriginal words with the corresponding English words. But real translation can’t be done on a word-by-word basis. You need conversations to understand how words are used.
By the 1830s and 40s, people were translating parts of the Bible into language. This was also when semi-professional linguists took over from amateurs and applied a more structured, formal approach to preserving language.
These Bibles are some of the earliest texts that show Aboriginal languages in action.
The Awabakal leader Beerabahn (Biraban) was befriended by Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld, who established a community around Lake Macquarie. Beerabahn patiently taught Threlkeld to speak his language. Threlkeld used this knowledge to write and publish several religious works and vocabularies. He also acted as an interpreter for Awabakal people in court trials.